Better late than never? Commission runs now to fight energy dependency on Russia with the sustainable energy security package

Maros Sefcovic Canete European Commission Energy

Press conference by Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the Energy Union, and Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner in charge of Climate Action and Energy, on the EC sustainable energy security package. Date: 16/02/2016 Reference: P-030937/00-02 Location: Brussels – EC/Berlaymont.

It was last Tuesday when the Commission launched a set of measures to increase energy security in the European Union. The executive arm of the EU now aims mainly at reducing dependency from countries outside the bloc (i.e. Russia), endorsing the energy union and decreasing the use of fossil fuels by replacing them with renewables.

Being one of Junker’s Commission priorities, the Energy Union is meant to finally provide to EU households and businesses with secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy. But the “sustainable energy security package” that the EC presented yesterday must first be approved by the European Parliament and the European Council, in order to come into force.

EU’s horrible gas dependency

The EU depends on Russia for gas supply for about one third of its total imports. The latter shows that the Old Continent will be influenced to a great extent if Russia decides to shut down the pipes and stop supplying with gas the Old Continent. Furthermore, half of the gas delivered to the EU comes through Ukraine which makes things even more complicated due to the long political unrest in the country.

The past has shown that such dependencies are leading to gas crises with severe impact on the European citizens and businesses. As Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, said yesterday: After the gas crises of 2006 and 2009 that left many millions out in the cold, we said: ‘Never again’. But the stress tests of 2014 showed we are still far too vulnerable to major disruption of gas supplies. And the political tensions on our borders are a sharp reminder that this problem will not just go away. Today’s proposals are about a reliable, competitive and flexible system in which energy flows across borders and consumers reap the benefits. They are about standing together to protect the most vulnerable. And they are about securing our clean energy future: I can assure that our commitment to a clean energy transition is irreversible and non-negotiable.”

That is why the EC, through this new security package, proposes to check thoroughly the gas-supply contracts before signed between an EU member state and a non-EU country and evaluate them as acceptable or not. The member states will thus have to prepare assessments on the risks that will be taken under such deal. In the case that these deals are not in line with the EU competition laws though, then according to the EC the case would need to be taken into court.

Greenpeace reacts

The non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace claims that the package that was presented by the EC is promoting gas instead of renewables as the source of securing Europe’s energy supply. More specifically, Jiri Jerabek, energy policy adviser at Greenpeace EU, said: “it’s like the Paris agreement never happened and the Commission is stuck on gas, dishing out a costly proposal that will keep Europe hooked on energy imports. It is high time Europe embraces the renewable energy transition. Only if it focuses on renewables and energy efficiency will Europe meet its climate targets and reduce its dependence on foreign energy supplies”.

On the one hand, it seems that the Commission is indeed spending more funds in order to build infrastructure for its Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and gas storage strategy. Through this strategy, the EC is aiming at improving access for each and every country to LNG as an alternative gas source. Hence, even if a completion of the internal energy market is succeeded in such a way, the main climate goal of reducing CO2 gas emissions and fossil fuels is not addressed.

On the other hand though, the Commission’s Heating and Cooling Strategy is meant to focus on decarbonising buildings and industry through the use of renewable sources and energy efficiency.  What is more, this particular strategy will inform and create awareness to consumers regarding their energy use and how they can make energy efficient renovations and generate their own energy with renewables.

Europe’s benefits

EC’s sustainable energy security package will create more jobs by targeting at the renewable energy sector. The anticipated reduction of unemployment that would come from that would certainly boost the European economy. Moreover, the EU citizens will reduce their household energy expenses and contribute to a greener environment following EC’s proposals on using efficient heating appliances based on renewable energy.

All in all, it seems that this proposed energy package will be beneficial for Europe. Not only will it increase security against possible energy disruptions but also will create a sustainable EU energy market, even in the long run.

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