22nd Mar 2018

EU says US energy summits will continue

  • From left to right: EU commissioners Maros Sefcovic (energy) and Federica Mogherini (foreign affairs), secretary of state John Kerry, and secretary of energy Ernest Moniz, at the most recent EU-US energy summit (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

The European Union expects to continue annual energy summits with the United States, but sources in and around the US department of energy cannot confirm they will.

“The EU side expects the energy council to continue and will be discussing with US counterparts in due course appropriate timing and agenda topics,” said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for the European Commission.

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In 2009, US president Barack Obama's first year in office, the two parties established a EU-US energy council, aimed at cooperating on policies, increasing energy security, and working together on clean energy technologies.

The two sides agreed to hold ministerial meetings annually, alternately in the EU and in the US.

The last summit was held on 4 May 2016, in Washington, which means that this year's meeting should take place in Brussels.

No date has been set yet, and it is not even clear whether the US wants to continue the format under its new president, Donald Trump, however.

His nominee for secretary of energy, Rick Perry, gained notoriety because he had previously advocated to abolish the department of energy, and because he was unable to name it when asked during a presidential debate in 2011.

He received broad support - 16 votes in favour against seven against - in the relevant senate committee in January, but still needs to be confirmed by the full chamber.

He told senators he regretted calling for its abolition.

He also said he believed “the climate is changing” and that “some” of it is caused by man-made activity.

Trump previously called climate change a “hoax”, and threatened to pull out of the Paris climate treaty.

No updates, no idea

A source in the department of energy told EUobserver that they have “no updates on this particularly issue at this time”.

Neither did John Deutch, who was chair of the advisory board of the secretary of energy under Perry's predecessor.

“I have no idea which past practices secretary Perry will choose to continue when he becomes secretary of energy,” he told this website.

Brussels-based Cosimo Avesani said he thought the cooperation would continue.

Avesani works with the Trans-Atlantic Business Council, a business association which calls itself “a long-term stakeholder in the EU-US energy council discussions”.

He said that normally “at least two months are needed to prepare” such summits, which makes it unlikely that the summit will be held before the summer.

Since 2009, the summits were held every year, except in 2015.

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The EU and the US will set up a joint energy council at ministerial and commissioner level to streamline policy initiatives relating to green technologies, research and energy security on both sides of the Atlantic, a US official told this website.

US yet to push on Nord Stream 2 sanctions

Washington would still like to block a planned gas pipeline between Russia and Germany but is not yet considering hitting companies involved in the project.

EU to pump €101m into Cyprus gas network

The EU also agreed on financing a study into the Southern Gas Corridor, to send a signal that the EU is still invested in the project - but leaves questions over renewable energy sources.

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Anti-nuclear Austria takes the EU Commission to court over Hungary's controversial Paks II nuclear plant, financed and built by Russia. But it is the Euratom treaty itself that could be on trial.

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