What's New in the EU: Energy proposals aim to boost security

The European Commission put forward a new strategy to build up energy solidarity among Member States.

eu flag biz 88 (photo credit: )
eu flag biz 88
(photo credit: )
The European Commission last week proposed a wide-ranging energy package that can give a new boost to energy security in Europe, supporting the 20-20-20 climate-change proposals that are supposed to be agreed to by December. The Commission put forward a new strategy to build up energy solidarity among Member States and a new policy on energy networks to stimulate investment in more efficient, low-carbon energy networks. The proposal sets a new EU Energy Security and Solidarity Action Plan, citing five areas where more action is needed to secure sustainable energy supplies. The proposal also looks at the challenges that Europe will face between 2020 and 2050. In addition, a package of energy-efficiency proposals aims to make energy savings in key areas, such as reinforcing energy-efficiency legislation on buildings and energy-using products, enhancing the role of energy performance certificates and inspection reports for heating and air-conditioning systems. Strategic Energy Review The first Strategic Review led to the European Council agreement in March 2007 on energy-policy targets for Europe. Since then, the Commission has proposed a number of measures to deliver these goals, including a package of proposals to open up the EU energy market further (now close to adoption), a Strategic Energy Technology Plan to promote clean-energy technology, new measures to improve the energy consumption of consumer goods and proposals for new compulsory targets on renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions. The March 2007 European Council invited the Commission to bring forward an updated Strategic Energy Review in early 2009. The proposals adopted last week respond to that request. The first priority identified in the second Strategic Energy Review is to adopt and rapidly implement the measures to reach European Council energy-policy targets for Europe aiming at a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20% share for renewables in final energy consumption and a 20% saving in future energy demand by 2020. This climate-change package, proposed by the Commission in January 2008, needs to be agreed to by the Council and Parliament in the coming weeks. Cleaner, more-diverse and more-efficient energy will be good for Europe's energy supply and economy. The new rules might also create a more-stable, consistent and transparent environment for new energy investments. Energy-supply security The second reported priority is to address the growing precariousness of Europe's energy-supply security. Even when the renewable-energy policy goals are reached, Europe is likely to be dependent on more imports than today. The EU needs to improve the current policies to achieve its energy-efficiency objective. Moreover, the ability of the EU to respond together in a crisis needs to be strengthened. In the new EU Energy Security and Solidarity Action Plan, the Commission sets out five areas where more action is needed to help set the EU on course for more secure and sustainable energy supplies in the future and to avert the risk of crisis in the EU as a whole. More effective support is needed for projects to build the required infrastructure. The EU has to make better use of its indigenous energy resources, both renewable and fossil. More attention has to be paid to solidarity, including EU crisis mechanisms, oil stocks and a variety of mechanisms to respond to possible gas disruption. Additional and more urgent efforts have to be made to improve energy efficiency. Greater focus on energy in the EU's international relations, including through establishment of relationships with supplier, transit and consumer countries based on interdependence should contribute to the achievement of the EU energy-policy goals and also increase the EU's influence on international energy developments. Closer coordination among Member States and with the Commission in external energy relations will be particularly important in this regard. Energy efficiency At the same time, the Commission presents a number of supporting documents that develop these lines of action. At the forefront is energy efficiency. A package of energy efficiency proposals aims to make energy savings in a number of areas, such as reinforcing the key energy-efficiency legislation on buildings and energy-using products, and enhancing the role of energy-performance certificates, as well as inspection reports for heating and air-conditioning systems. To improve efficiency in energy supply, the Commission has adopted guidelines to enable the uptake of electricity generation from highly efficient cogeneration installations. In 2009, the Commission plans a thorough evaluation of the 2006 European Action Plan for Energy Efficiency. Investment in infrastructure The issue of investment is also central to the package. Europe's networks need billions of euros of investment to replace aging infrastructure and adapt to low-carbon and renewable energy. A Green Paper on energy networks identifies six strategic initiatives as essential for the EU's energy security: a Baltic interconnection plan, a Mediterranean energy ring, adequate North-South gas and electricity interconnections with central and southeast Europe, a North Sea offshore grid, a southern gas corridor and effective liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies for Europe. syrquin@013.net Ari Syrquin is the head of the International Department at GSCB Law Firm.