EU's energy challenges should be confronted by a unified strategy

Europe must reform its energy subsidy policies if it wants to fully benefit from the potential of renewable energy, writes Merja Kyllönen.

By Merja Kyllönen

17 Jun 2015

Prioritising energy efficiency and sustainable energy will mean we can worry a little less about energy security and climate change. 

When presenting my draft opinion report on the European energy security strategy to parliament's environment, public health and food safety committee at the end of last year, I reminded my colleagues about what energy security actually means to the citizens of Europe. 

When discussing the topic, it's easy for MEPs to dwell on foreign policy and external threats, but for people, energy security is about very mundane yet very important things - warm homes, cooking meals and a sense of security. 


Of course, it's important to talk about infrastructure, mutual dependency and finances but at the same time, we must not forget that if we are ambitious enough and approach implementation vigorously enough, there is a lot we can do with existing policy and legislation.

The environment committee's draft opinion considers that the challenges posed by energy security and climate change need to be met by a unified strategy, addressing both issues simultaneously. 

By combining measures to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy through the development of innovative energy technologies, we can secure stable energy supply throughout Europe at affordable prices for both citizens and businesses. 

As stated in the draft opinion, energy saving and efficiency are quick and cost-effective routes to addressing issues such as energy security, external dependence, high prices, unemployment and environmental concerns. It is especially important to tap into the potential for both in buildings and in the transport sector.

Personally, I was very glad that the committee agreed to call on the commission and the member states to redesign the subsidies mechanisms in order to phase out all those that are environmentally harmful, in particular for fossil fuels. 

Once this has been done, we can truly start to use more sustainable energy resources. Subsidies still define our energy usage, so unless they change, nothing will really happen on the energy market. 

I was also happy to hear that parliament considers developing smarter energy grids and new flexible, distributed and micro-level energy production to be important issues.

Although the committee did agree to recall the environmental, climate and health risks and impacts relating to extraction of unconventional fossil fuels, there seems to be a lot of excitement in some groups about the possibility of exploiting shale gas. 

I also remain doubtful about the value of carbon capture and storage technologies, which the environment committee ended up including in its draft opinion.

Europe's energy market has huge potential. If we really want to make an effort to in terms of climate change, energy efficiency and energy security, as well as economically, we need to change the way we think. 

We must also use more sustainable energy resources and innovations to create jobs within the energy market. 

But for this to happen, we must move the package away from subsidies, towards developing and supporting smarter energy grids. Nothing will happen if we just sit and hope. We must act now.


Read the most recent articles written by Merja Kyllönen - Can the EU's circular economy apply to ports?