Jerzy Buzek: 2017 should be Europe’s year of Energy Union implementation
EU has an opportunity to ‘springboard’ the integration of energy policy across several areas, says European Parliament’s energy committee chief
Jerzy Buzek MEP | Photo credit: EP Audiovisual
When I joined the European Parliament back in 2004, a common energy policy sounded like pure science fiction to most of my colleagues.
However, over time, it has become more and more obvious that no single country alone can solve the challenge of providing secure, clean and cheap energy supplies to its citizens and businesses.
By 2010, when Jacques Delors and I proposed the “European energy community”, there was broad agreement – in Brussels as well as in the member states – that a joint energy strategy was necessary.
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Today we have such a strategy officially in place, and the European Commission has certainly lived up to its promise of making 2016 “the year of delivery for the energy union”.
By now, almost 90 per cent of the necessary legislation has been proposed. Now it is time for prompt implementation. The challenges of energy policy are all interlinked. That is why I like the Commission’s idea to bundle the energy union legislation in packages.
There is no good way to discuss the new electricity market design in separation from renewables, energy efficiency, the efficiency of buildings, energy union governance and everything else.
Parliament has stressed in several resolutions that the backbone of the energy union must be the internal energy market, with more competition translating into lower prices, choice for consumers, empowerment for prosumers, the integration of renewables, the full use of all indigenous resources and with infrastructure to send energy freely from Madrid to Riga or from Dublin to Athens.
Although EU member states committed to completing the market by the end of 2014, two years later we are still not there. Our ambition to make energy use more efficient and less harmful to the environment – and to human health – is obvious and absolutely necessary.
At the same time, though, we must maintain our ambition to decrease energy prices for consumers: for our citizens, SMEs and industries. This is crucial for our global competitiveness; in many parts of the world the price of energy remains much lower than in the EU. We must keep this in mind when working on the new electricity market design.
The new design should help us adapt the market to new trends in dispersed generation, in consumption and in energy saving.
The key to success is the grid: it is the grid that will determine how well we can absorb renewable energy and how we can empower prosumers - especially in less populated rural areas.
We also have the previous package of February 2016 on the table, reminding us that besides power, there are also challenges related to gas in our energy market. Again, these two aspects are interlinked. The final shape of the gas laws will also be important for our decisions on electricity.
We will soon begin negotiations with member states on the regulation on security of gas supply for which I am Parliament’s rapporteur. Stress tests have proven that the cooperation mechanism created in the 2010 regulation has not been sufficient.
We need binding solidarity, and we need to move on from national level to regional cooperation. In early December we concluded negotiations on the examination of intergovernmental energy agreements.
The importance of this decision lies not in transparency – which is, by the way, too often misunderstood as posting contracts openly on the internet – but in the creation of a level playing field as the base for the internal energy market.
It comes down to the simple truth that all players must comply with the same market rules. Let us remember that the release of the winter package is just the beginning of the legislative work. If 2016 has been a “year of delivery”, 2017 must be “a year of implementation”.
In the European Parliament, we are about to organise our work on the package, and I am convinced that both the Maltese and Estonian EU Council presidencies will match the commitment of the Slovak presidency.
Energy policy is our joint responsibility but also a tremendous opportunity – it can be a springboard for our integration in so many other areas.
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