No EU energy union without true internal market, warns commissioner

Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 26 March 2015 in News
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European climate action and energy commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete has presented the college's climate plans to MEPs.

Cañete began by telling parliament, "the strategic framework for the energy union sets the vision for the future and integrates a series of policy areas into one strategy; it intends to give coherence to our action, and if we are skilful enough, we will open a new integration phase in the EU".

However, the Spanish official was aware this will be no easy feat and warned MEPs that "the energy union will not be a reality unless you are capable of building a true internal market, therefore strict enforcement of the third internal energy package will be my priority - once we make sure the regulatory framework is applied, we will be in a position to reinforce it".

In order to assess progress, the commissioner called for "an integrated governance and monitoring process to make sure that energy-related action at European, national and local levels all contribute to our common objectives", adding that "this governance will be transparent, flexible and reliable, in full respect of the prerogatives of the member states and of the EU institutions". 

"The strategic framework for the energy union sets the vision for the future and integrates a series of policy areas into one strategy" - Miguel Arias Cañete 

Moving on to energy security, Cañete explained that it "depends on more solidarity and trust between the member states", and announced that he would deliver a package on the issue "by the end of the year".

This will include "a proposal for the revision of the energy and gas security regulation to reinforce provisions to secure supplies, monitoring and crisis management".

The commissioner also told MEPs that liquefied natural gas (LNG) would be considered "as a backup in crisis situations", and that a package on the matter was currently in the works.

Cañete revealed that "new legislation on security of supply for electricity" will be proposed next year, as "currently there are no formal standards in place, so member states use an outdated approach".

Energy security has long been high on the college's list of priorities, given ongoing tensions with Russia, the EU's main gas supplier. The problem is not just about diversifying Europe's energy sources, as the Spaniard underlined, "security also means strengthening the EU's negotiating power".

Cañete also announced that he was working on reviewing the ecodesign and labelling directive, as well as the energy efficiency directive, and that proposals would be forthcoming in 2016, adding, "this will be followed by a review of the energy performance of buildings directive".

He insisted that "energy efficiency must be one of our main priorities", as it deeply affects consumers' lives, and "energy saving means paying less for the energy we consume and the creation of jobs".

Regarding carbon emissions, the official stressed that, "we need to work on the adoption of the market stability reserve proposal", which is intended to help the emissions trading scheme function better. (link to article)

A key component of the energy union package is the installation of electricity interconnections in Europe, to allow countries to better share - and sell - their resources. 

Highlighting the 10 per cent target member states must reach by 2020, Cañete conceded this was likely to be somewhat of a challenge, pointing out that, "as of February 2014, 12 member states remain below this target and are therefore isolated from the internal electricity market - by 2020, this situation needs to be redressed".

In terms of concrete measures, Cañete told deputies that the commission has "started work on enhanced regional cooperation in south east Europe and in the Baltic region by strengthening the regulation on wholesale energy market integrity and transparency (the REMIT initiative)".

Parliament's reaction

EPP group vice-chair Françoise Grossetête urged her colleagues to "translate [energy union] plans into concrete measures as fast as possible".

She said, "member states must actively help to speed up the process and should not get cold feet with regards to the difficult strategic challenges - it is time to act now".

S&D group representative Dan Nica called on the commission to "produce an annual report to document what progress has been made [in terms of reaching the 2020 target]".

He added that "people look at [renewables] as a capricious form of energy - it is not always reliable so we need to make it more consistent and do away with the unpredictable side of things".

ECR group chair Syed Kamall said, "we need to demonstrate how we are going to encourage diversification of energy sources, better interconnections and energy security so our countries no longer have to rely on unpleasant regimes in the Middle East or Russia".

Speaking on behalf of the ALDE group, Fredrick Federley said, "we have a real opportunity ahead of us to come forward with a sustainable energy policy in a much more constructive way than in the past - oil, coal and gas are all finite resources".

However, he underlined that "there are lots of things that don't work when it comes to a common energy market - some member states have resources that other countries cannot make the most of".

Greens/EFA MEP Claude Turmes complained that "today's energy market is not designed for renewables". The Luxembourgish deputy explained that this was due to "wrong pricing" and called for renewables to "get closer to the market".

And GUE/NGL deputy Neoklis Sylikiotis warned that when it comes to using LNG, "most of these resources are in the eastern Mediterranean, and these countries are exposed to danger with nuclear power plants being built in their region - there are serious risks arising from the disposal of nuclear waste and this could affect the whole of the EU".

 

About the author

Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine

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