Monday

25th Sep 2017

EU to call for paradigm shift on energy

  • Roughly 50,000 km of electricity transmission lines will have to be built or upgraded between now and 2020, says the proposal (Photo: European Commission)

Europe's creaking energy infrastructure must be massively overhauled if the bloc is to meet its energy needs in the year 2020 and beyond, a report by the European Commission is set to say.

Outdated and hugely fragmented, the EU's energy grid should be replaced by a "Single European Energy Network", says a draft copy of the commission's communication on Energy Infrastructure Priorities seen by EUobserver.

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"European energy infrastructure is aging and at the same time facing new challenges in terms of security of supply, market integration and the need to up-take an ever increasing share of electricity from low carbon energy sources," says the document, due to be published next month.

"Energy demand and import dependence on fossil fuels will continue to grow over the coming years, making Europe's energy equation even more difficult," it continues.

Investments to ensure Europe meets its growing energy and climate change needs - including new infrastructure for electricity, gas, oil and carbon capture and storage (CCS) - could amount to as much as €1 trillion.

Full integration of the Baltic States into the EU energy market, together with the integration of offshore wind and ocean energy production capacities in the North Seas, are among the identified tasks to be carried out.

Likewise, the diversification of Europe's gas supply through new supply routes - including a Southern Corridor - is also highlighted as a top priority, as is the integration of solar photovoltaic and thermodynamic energy production in southern Europe and Mediterranean neighbour countries with central Europe.

"However, not all of the necessary investments will be taken up by the market, in particular not as rapidly as is needed to achieve the EU's energy and climate goals set for 2020," warns the document, citing the need for co-ordinated pubic intervention.

"The EU should be equipped to be able to effectively – and not only in words – back certain projects by guaranteeing their feasibility... To implement the priority projects identified in this communication, public support of up to [15 bn euro] is needed," says the draft.

Once agreement is reached on roughly seven projects of European interest, the communication suggests the commission would then come forward with legislative proposals to prevent delays occurring at the local level.

"Construction of energy infrastructure – both for generation and transmission – is becoming increasingly difficult as it conflicts with other public policy objectives such as protection of landscapes and/or the environment, spatial planning, public health and safety, tourism and other forms of local economic development," says the document.

To prevent this, priority projects should come under new rules - easing their passage to completion.

"The European priority projects should benefit from preferential treatment in order to ensure their timely implementation, either by applying the fastest possible procedure at national level or by defining a new harmonised procedure," says the draft text.

"The preferred option would be a "declaration of European interest" regime that would trigger simplified procedures, reduced numbers of competent authorities in charge of approving permit applications at local, regional and national level and maximum timeframes for each step in the procedure," it continues, a move that could potentially anger environmental groups amongst others.

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