EU's winter package is ready for take-off

Thanks to the winter package, the energy union is nearly complete, and it's now time for member states and local governments to play their part, says Maroš Šefcovic.

Maroš Šefcovic | Photo credit: Bea Uhart

By Maroš Šefcovic

20 Mar 2017

Just over two years ago, the European Commission announced the energy union strategy. Back then, we set out a strong vision on how the EU should lead the worldwide clean energy transition. We made it very clear right from the start that Europe had chosen its path, its objectives, its future. And that future is clean.

Since setting the strategy, we have been building this energy union 'house' on stable foundations. Over the past two years, we have been constructing floor after floor in this project and with the last package, we added the roof. 

With the 'clean energy for all Europeans' package, we have achieved 90 per cent of what we promised. The residents can now move into the energy union house - the residents and owners being all Europeans, who can now start benefitting from a modern, low-carbon economy.


The package received different names in the press - winter package, energy union package, clean energy package. My team and I colloquially called it a 'jumbo package', but actually if it was a plane, it would be more like an Airbus A-380 - modern, clean, energy efficient, reliable and very European.

It will bring fundamental change, moving us away from centralised fossil-fuel-based systems, which were built some 100 years ago. It is a new transformational paradigm towards de-centralised, clean power production with consumers at the centre-stage. And I must add, it will significantly improve the efficiency market with its binding threshold of 30 per cent energy efficiency for 2030.

The package is transformational also in terms of its impact on the economy. It will create up to 900,000 additional jobs across the energy sector - a 40 per cent increase. It will generate a €190bn increase in GDP gains by 2030. And, it will boost over €170bn in additional investments each year.

I cannot go into the detail of the entire package here, which is indeed very large - some journalists have compared it in size to the Bible and 'Gone with the wind' combined. Attempting to summarise it in this short article would not do justice to either the package itself or to the readers.

But I want to be clear: its main objectives are increasing energy efficiency, boosting renewables and empowering European consumers. Let me give you some examples. We have laid out a regulatory framework that will support further renewables development in the EU, spur innovation and keep the engineering jobs in Europe.

In an unprecedented way, we proposed to empower energy consumers. We encourage citizens, communities and prosumers to take advantage of their new power - the right to self-generate, to request a smart meter, electronic billing, electricity contract that contains a dynamic element and more.

We have also added measures to protect consumers in general and specifically vulnerable groups who are more at risk of energy poverty. Energy poverty is a growing phenomenon in Europe and the Commission cannot be silent on this issue. Together with the member states, we can help millions of Europeans to lower their energy bills. 

While fully respecting member states' prerogatives in this area, we are asking them to address this issue in a targeted and effective manner, in particular through energy efficiency measures, such as building renovations. Moreover, we would like to understand and measure this phenomenon more precisely by setting up an energy poverty observatory.

Finally, we have set up robust governance for the achievement of all energy union objectives and 2030 targets. The new system streamlines all the existing obligations, therefore reducing the administrative burden. It also adds transparency measures so it is easier to follow on the implementation and ensure the EU is on the right track to meet its international obligations under the Paris agreement.

But the package is not only about legislation. It includes facilitating actions which aim at producing short to medium term impact. These do not need to wait for our negotiations and agreement with the co-legislators - the European Parliament and the Council - which I hope will proceed swiftly - but we will start right away.

For example, it includes an innovation strategy, with €2bn devoted to decarbonisation of building stocks, renewables, integrated storage and eMobility. It also announces significant support for expanding sectorial skills and assisting regions in transition from coal to renewable energy sources.

So yes, the energy union plane has now taken off, but it needs you as co-pilots to arrive safely at its destination. That is why I will be travelling to the member states as part of the second energy union tour. I will plead with governments, cities, local project promoters and the next generation of Europeans. I invite you to join me in making the energy union our joint European success story.