Launch of Energy Union – mixed messages

Environmental organisations criticised the proposal for inconsistencies and called for a “coherent, joined-up plan” for the EU in order to tackle climate change. Photo: Matthias Ripp/ BY

The Commission proposes a range of policy and legislative packages to realise the Energy Union in the next five years. Environmental organisations are critical of mixed messages, inconsistencies and continued reliance on fossil fuels.

The new EU policy on Energy Union set out in the Commission Communication Energy Union Package – A Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy – is meant to help the EU to build an energy market that benefits consumers, ensure energy security, implement the appropriate infrastructure, ensure efficient energy supply, and attain close integration of renewables into the energy mix.

The Energy Union is based on five pillars/dimensions, which are:
1. Energy Security
2. Fully integrated EU Energy Market
3. Energy Efficiency
4. Decarbonising the Economy
5. Research, Innovation and Competitiveness

The Annex to the Energy Union lists actions that the Commission will undertake in the coming years to develop this framework. Some of the main points of the Energy Union include:

  • Full implementation and strict enforcement of existing energy and related legislation.
  • Action to ensure further resilience and diversification of energy supply. This comprises for instance a revision of the existing security of gas supply regulation until 2016, a comprehensive strategy for liquid natural gas, and enhancing access to alternative suppliers, including from the Southern Gas Corridor route, the Mediterranean and Algeria.
  • Ensure that intergovernmental agreements comply fully with EU legislation and are more transparent.
  • Improve the infrastructure, support implementation of major infrastructure projects and create an infrastructure forum with a view to supporting the energy market, integrating renewables and achieving security of supply.
  • Introduce a new European electricity market design in 2015, coupled with legislative proposals in 2016 such as legislation on security of supply for electricity and a general review of the regulatory framework.
  • Enhanced regional approaches and cooperation on market integration.
  • Action to address internal market distortion including ensuring greater transparency over costs, energy prices and public subsidies.
  • Greater energy efficiency including a review of energy-saving legislation and greater uptake of funds for renovating housing and retrofitting existing buildings for efficiency gains.
  • Moving away from fossil fuels in the transport sector and speeding up energy efficiency in this sector. This includes promotion of efficient pricing of infrastructure and the roll-out of intelligent transport solutions.
  • Roll-out of a climate and energy framework for 2030 with legislation to achieve the renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction targets agreed in October 2014 (partly within the Emission Trading System). This will comprise a new Renewable Energy Package in 2016–2017.
  • Develop a smart energy and climate-related Research and Investment Strategy for EU leadership.

EU energy ministers will discuss the package in Brussels on 5 March and at an informal gathering hosted by the Latvian Presidency on 14–16 April, before formally taking a position at the Luxembourg energy council on 11–12 June. EU environment ministers will also consider the Commission’s plan at a meeting in Brussels on 6 March, while EU leaders will discuss it briefly at a European summit on 19–20 March.

The Energy Union package has had a mixed reception from the environmental movement and the general view is that the package is not adequate and even entails a number of conflicts.

For instance Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser, Tara Connolly, said: “The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing with this plan. The Commission says the EU should move away from fossil fuels but it also wants to chase after new gas supplies and doesn’t rule out coal. Europe needs a coherent, joined-up plan if it’s going to play its part against climate change and be the world number one in renewables.” According to Greenpeace and other environmental organisations, the plan lays out a contradictory set of priorities for energy and climate policy for the coming years. It supports the need to cut carbon emissions and the role of renewable energy, but backs fossil fuels such as coal in the context of energy security.

The organisation Transport and Environment (T&E) is also critical, saying that although there are good intentions for cleaner cars and the electrification of transport, the package did not deliver on earlier promises to introduce CO2 standards for trucks and buses.

Brook Riley, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe is also disappointed, stating that: “The target European governments have agreed that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is based on outdated science, and assumes a 50:50 chance at best of staying below 2°C global temperature increase. People must not be duped into believing the EU is taking genuine action on climate change.”  Riley is also critical of the many references in the communication to gas, particularly as Europe has promised to cut emissions by up to 95 per cent by 2050.  “If Europe would exploit the full potential of energy savings and renewables, much higher emission cuts would be possible and we could leave the beaten track of fossil fuel dependency once and for all.”

Both Friends of the Earth Europe and CAN Europe called on the EU to provide new, additional financial and technological support for climate action in developing countries. It is also vital to scale up support from the developing countries to secure a comprehensive global climate agreement in Paris in December that builds resilient communities and helps vulnerable people.

Miriam Markus-Johansson

Source: Energy Union Package
Transport & Environment Press release 25 February 2015
Greenpeace Press release 25 February 2015
The Tree Content for Climate & Energy Communicators

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