Monday

26th Jun 2017

Opinion

Europe at an energy crossroads

  • Global energy prices are skyrocketing. From 2010 to 2011 alone, the EU’s oil bill increased by nearly €100 billion. (Photo: Kevin Krejci)

The invention of the steam pipe, spinning Jenny and other technologies dramatically increased production speeds and revolutionised European society in the 1800s.

We need to stoke the boilers again, but this time we need to do it with affordable, clean and safe energy and that is why the EU stands at an unprecedented energy crossroads, facing an urgent need for huge power investments in the next two decades.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

A new investment cycle is taking place, as infrastructure built 30-40 years ago needs to be replaced. If we take the right strategic decisions now, investments will cost less and avoid disruptions in the longer term.

Energy infrastructure includes power plants, transmission lines, gas networks and more amounting to combined investments for hundreds of billions of euros. The investments we choose today will bind us for decades to come. We must be completely clear about how we want the EU’s energy sector of tomorrow to look like. We need a shared, long-term vision that can guide policy decisions and investments and establish the longer-term framework here and now.

The Energy Roadmap 2050, presented by the Commission in December 2011, is the key element for this discussion.

There is no doubt that we must make targeted investments that will ensure all European residents and businesses access to affordable, clean and safe energy in the years to come. This requires Europe to make a series of landmark decisions this year.

In light of the economic situation it is vital that these decisions be cost effective and takes account of the competitiveness of businesses and support economic recovery. Setting the right framework for low carbon economy can be a driver of innovation that gives possibilities for the EU to achieve and maintain global technological lead positions by which the strong positions of European companies are improved by virtue of, for example, efficient use of energy and the use of renewable energy.

The EU must lead the way, and if the EU does not seize its opportunity, instead, the growth potentials will be exploited elsewhere, notably in China and USA.

We suggest three main approaches to the matter:

First, the International Energy Agency has sounded the alarm. Global energy prices are skyrocketing. From 2010 to 2011 alone, the EU’s oil bill increased by nearly €100 billion. It is high time that we put a plug in this hole and redirect our money from importing energy from outside the EU to making energy investments in Europe.

Improving energy efficiency is not in opposition to economic growth, it is instead a prerequisite for economic growth. The Commission estimates that increased energy efficiency could create two million new jobs in Europe. While Denmark holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU, we have the opportunity to adopt the Energy Efficiency Directive, which is the main vehicle for closing the gap to the target of 20 % energy savings in 2020.It is vital that the Energy Efficiency Directive is in place. It is a cornerstone in the framework for a sustainable energy system.

Secondly, we must in the coming months discuss the path we want to set for 2030 and beyond. We have set our targets for 2020, but companies and investors need to have longer term predictability. It is important to provide incentives to support a transition to a low carbon economy – both up to and after 2020. This aims to secure investments in energy efficient technologies and the expansion of renewable energy and other low-carbon energy sources, contributing to ensuring stable energy supply and to supporting European jobs and competitiveness.

Establishing a post-2020 policy framework with clear milestones would send a strong message to the market around the world and lay the groundwork for the EU’s continuing alliances with international partners.

Finally, we must invest in European energy infrastructure by making strategic investments that can bind countries together, even over long distances. All of Europe must be involved in these efforts. An integrated internal market for energy will contribute to promoting competition, give consumers and companies lower electricity prices and make it easier and cheaper to integrate increasing quantities of renewable energy into the energy network. Hence better integration will contribute to reducing dependence on imported energy from third countries and thereby strengthen Europe’s energy security.

As seen in these days of extreme gas and electricity consumption, it will also reinforce the solidarity amongst Member States.

Europe is in the midst of an economic crisis of historic proportions and we cannot afford to waste money. A focused effort to develop affordable, clean and safe energy will create jobs in the short term, ensure European competiveness and affordable prices for consumers in the medium term and make an invaluable contribution to the planet’s climate in the future.

It’s going to take courage from the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the Commission. We urge all to focus on these challenges, especially for the next five months. If we do not, we will become the back seat driver, finding ourselves unable to keep up the pace in the global energy race.

Günther Oettinger is European Commissioner for Energy. Martin Lidegaard is Danish Minister of Climate, Energy and Building and chairman of the Council of Ministers of Energy.

EU leaders trying to shift focus from deficits to jobs

Besides a treaty on fiscal discipline, European leaders meeting in Brussels on Monday will also seek to adopt non-binding measures on employment. Their summit will come in the midst of a general strike expected to paralyse the EU capital.

Focus

Denmark leads EU countries on wind energy

European wind energy is picking up as recently released statistics by the European Wind Energy Association show an upward spike in the number of wind farms created, amount invested, and energy generated.

A positive agreement for Greece

The outcome of the Eurogroup meeting this week leaves a positive footprint, setting the basis for the Greek economy to exit the vicious circle of austerity and debt.

Britain preparing to jump off a cliff

Following the poor performance of Theresa May's Conservatives in the recent UK general election, her prospects of negotiating a good Brexit deal have gone from bad to worse.

Are MEPs too 'free' to be accountable?

The European Parliament is currently fine-tuning its negotiating position on the Commission's proposal from September 2016 for a mandatory transparency register. Sadly, so far it seems to prefer empty statements to bold action.

News in Brief

  1. Berlusconi's party sees comeback in Italian local votes
  2. Low turnout in Albanian election set to mandate EU future
  3. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  4. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  5. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  6. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  7. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  8. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. EU approves rescue of Italian banks
  2. Cohesion policy for a stronger Europe
  3. Cheap meat is a bigger problem for climate and health
  4. Ministers to reject minimum parking spaces for electric cars
  5. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  6. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  7. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  8. EU extends sanctions on Russia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Social Services ConferenceDriving Innovation in the Social Sector I 26-28 June
  2. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  3. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  5. The Idealist QuarterlyDoes Europe Really Still Need Feminism? After-Work Chat on 22 June
  6. EUSEW17Create an Energy Day Event Before the End of June. Join the Call for Clean Energy
  7. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  8. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  9. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  10. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days
  11. ILGA-EuropeLGBTI Activists and Businesses Fighting Inequality Together
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Prime Ministers Respond to Trump on Paris Agreement