EU energy union: No 'one-size-fits-all' - but technology can help

Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 22 March 2017 in Opinion
Opinion

Completing the energy union means ensuring a well-functioning internal energy market that empowers consumers, say MEPs.

Sustainable energy | Photo credit: Fotolia


The energy union is one of this Commission's landmark endeavours, and also one of its most ambitious - it promises to fight climate change, improve Europe's energy security and boost jobs and growth, all while ensuring the EU remains a world leader in environment policy. 

For Jerzy Buzek, who chairs Parliament's industry, research and energy committee, the goal is clear: "boosting the EU's competitiveness by making energy more affordable and secure while reducing the pressure on the environment by making energy use cleaner."

But, notes the Pole, "No country is able to achieve this alone; a simple sum of 28 national policies does not automatically yield a European system either. To ensure policy consistence across the EU, we need wise integration and constant search for compromises, taking into account regional and national specificities. 


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"A 'one size fits all' would be too simplified and costly for the energy sector as well as for the consumers. Our policy needs to remain technology neutral, respecting member states' autonomy to shape the energy mix."

Buzek also highlights that completing the energy union requires a well-functioning internal energy market, one that will stand the test of time; "The new market design will not last for decades; technological progress will require further changes, successive modifications. We must effectively stimulate further development of new technologies of tomorrow already now."

S&D group MEP Martina Werner adds that another crucial step towards energy union is getting industry on board, by ensuring predictability "to ensure a positive investment climate for European industries. 

"So, if we want companies to invest, for example, in a more efficient and less energy intensive production chain, we have to give them incentives for long-term investments. Predictability and long-term investment security can only be reached by binding targets for energy efficiency and for renewables both on the EU level and on the national level."

Consumers, too, have a role to play, she says; "Future energy policy has to make sure that consumers will be able to generate electricity for their own consumption, store it, share it or to sell it back to the market without any administrative burden and in a fair way. 

"Consumers should be able to better control their energy consumption and to respond to price signals. Consumer empowerment is one of our priorities for the future market design."

Kaja Kallas, an ALDE group deputy, points out that new technologies make it easier for Europe to diversify its energy supply. "Technology innovation provides us with new solutions that make it possible to bring flexibility into the grid. 

"Energy networks that can automatically monitor energy flows and adjust to changes in energy supply and demand will empower our citizens, consumers and businesses by actually giving them control over their consumption and the power to manage it. 

"When coupled with smart metering systems, smart grids reach consumers and suppliers by providing information on real-time consumption. These smart grids can also help better integrate renewable energy. 

"As the sun does not shine all the time and the wind does not always blow, combining information on energy demand with weather forecasts can allow grid operators to better plan the integration of renewable energy into the grid and balance their networks."

 

About the author

Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist for the Parliament Magazine

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