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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Energy union attacked for continued reliance on gas supplies.
Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 2 March 2015 in News, The Parliament Magazine.

One of team Juncker’s flagship policy strategies, plans for the implementation of an energy union were finally unveiled last week. In its official communication, the commission explains, “our vision is of an energy union where member states see that they depend on each other to deliver secure energy to their citizens, based on true solidarity and trust”.

“Our vision is of an integrated continent-wide energy system where energy flows freely across borders, based on competition and the best possible use of resources, and with effective regulation of energy markets at EU level where necessary”, the document adds.

More importantly, one of the central aims of the energy union is to promote more effective EU-wide climate change policy and “secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy”. This is especially significant ahead of the UN Paris climate summit that will take place next December.

Late last year, the commission set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030, and increasing energy efficiency and renewables by at least 27 per cent.

Yet the energy efficiency target is not binding at national or EU level, and the renewables target is only binding at EU level. It is unclear how this will play into the new energy union plans, but the commission seems to have ignored any criticisms, referring to these targets in its communication as “ambitious”.

Moreover, “producing oil and gas from unconventional sources in Europe such as shale gas is an option, provided that issues of public acceptance and environmental impact are adequately addressed”.

The commission’s apparent commitment to “public acceptance” is interesting, as it was previously reported that during the course of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership negotiations, the EU planned to make provisions to import US gas and oil acquired through fracking.

“When the conditions are right, the EU will consider reframing the energy relationship with Russia”

There are also plans to “explore the full potential of liquefied natural gas, including as a back-up in crisis situations when insufficient gas is coming into Europe through the existing pipeline system”.

The commission also stresses, “to reach our goal, we have to move away from an economy driven by fossil fuels”.

Additionally, the energy union is meant to serve as a political tool, with the Brussels executive hoping to diversify its gas and energy suppliers in order to reduce Russian president Vladimir Putin’s negotiating power in times of conflict.

According to the document, “when the conditions are right, the EU will consider reframing the energy relationship with Russia”. Unfortunately, team Juncker fails to specify what the “right” conditions are, nor what “reframing” the relationship would actually consist of.

The communication warns, “to ensure the diversification in gas supplies, work on the southern gas corridor must be intensified to enable central Asian countries to export their gas to Europe. In northern Europe, the establishment of liquid gas hubs with multiple suppliers is greatly enhancing supply security. This example should be followed in central and eastern Europe, and in the Mediterranean area, where a Mediterranean gas hub is in the making”.

This may seem like an ideal solution considering the situation in Ukraine seems unlikely to reach a peaceful conclusion any time soon. But the countries the commission plans to work with are hardly dream allies.

These include Azerbaijan, which human rights watch has condemned for its “poor record on freedom of expression” and “arrests and intimidation of opposition political activists” and Turkmenistan, which the organization called “one of the world’s most repressive countries”.

Unsurprisingly, last week’s announcement was met with a lukewarm response on the part of environmental organizations, with Juncker’s team accused of contradicting itself.

Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser Tara Connolly said, “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing with this plan. The commission says the EU should move away from fossil fuels but it also wants to chase after new gas supplies and doesn’t rule out coal”.

Brook Riley, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe added, “we keep hearing repetitions of gas, gas, gas. But at the same time Europe has promised to cut emissions by up to 95 per cent by 2050 – it is saying one thing and doing another”.

And Roland Joebstl, European environmental bureau policy officer on energy and climate change, commented, “tackling climate change and the issue of energy security means that the 2030 targets and related policies must be revised upwards instead of spending political capital on looking for more fossil fuel suppliers”.

But not everyone was as critical of the energy union proposals, with representatives from the climate action network saying, “the commission’s move today will kick off a wave of pledges from countries over the course of the year – all of which will add up to the first collective signal that the world is moving out of fossil fuels and embracing the renewable energy era”.

MEPs were equally divided over the announcements.

Brussels’ energy union strategy is due to be discussed at this week’s council meeting.

 www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/art…

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

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Challenges ahead for EU energy union implementation, warn MEPs
Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 2 March 2015 in News. The Parliament Magazine.

The European parliament has cautiously welcomed commission vice-president Maroš Šef?ovi?’s energy union plans.

MEPs were quick to react after the commission outlined plans for an energy union last week.

Martin Schulz, president of the parliament, was broadly supportive, saying, “the energy union is needed to reinforce the EU’s stance ahead of the December Paris climate conference”, adding that “current events highlight the urgency for the EU to increase energy security”.


Jerzy Buzek, chair of parliament’s industry, research and energy committee, commented, “an internal energy market with an excellent level of interconnection and without isolated ‘energy islands’ will enable us to help each other, guaranteeing energy supply to all regions”.

The former parliament president noted that “stable, sustainable, affordable and competitive energy is a challenge which no EU member state is capable of meeting by itself”.

He also stressed that “developments in relations with Russia might have been an impulse for us to shift up a gear in our energy considerations, but altering the EU’s relations with Russia or any other party is not one of the energy union’s goals”.

Representatives from the S&D group also appeared quite happy with the commission’s energy union plans. The Socialists’ spokesperson on climate and environment, Matthias Groote, said, “the paper on the energy union represents a first step towards a sustainable, decarbonised economy in Europe”.

Dan Nica, the group’s spokesperson on energy, praised them as “a good balance between the geostrategic need to reduce our energy dependency on expensive imports and the fair demand from families and industries to reduce the price of energy”.


Meanwhile, the Liberals were especially vocal on the proposal’s foreign policy aspects. ALDE group president Guy Verhofstadt highlighted that “an ambitious energy union will not only create jobs, growth and tackle climate change, it will also hit Putin where it hurts most”.

He added, “Europe can no longer afford its addiction to imported fossil fuels from Russia and the Middle East. Our dependence on external energy resources has affected our ability to conduct an independent foreign policy. It is time for a European energy union with teeth”.

And the group’s environment, public health and food safety committee coordinator Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy warned, “the true test of the energy union will be overcoming the current fragmentation of energy policy into 28 different systems and reaping the full benefits of a common European approach”.

Morgen Helveg Petersen, a vice-chair of parliament’s industry, research and energy committee, underlined that “investors will only put their money in the many projects of the energy union if the associated regulatory framework is put in place, environmental legislation is predictable and competition policy is sound. The biggest barrier is regulatory uncertainty – we need to fix that”.

Yet not everyone was impressed with the energy union plans. Marek Gróbarczyk, ECR group spokesperson on energy, called on council president Donald Tusk to “stick to the promises that he made – to build a real, coherent energy union including ‘gas solidarity’, rehabilitation of coal and substantial diversification”.

In his view, “these proposals are disappointing because I fear they offer a virtual energy union that is not adequate to meet our growing challenges”.

“If the EU wants to get serious about energy security, it should be prioritising energy efficiency as the first line of defence” – Claude Turmes

Over on the left, MEPs were equally cynical.

Greens/EFA energy spokesperson Claude Turmes criticised the commission’s proposals as “a missed opportunity for outlining a path to a real energy transition in Europe. The overarching focus is on finding new supply routes for gas and reviving nuclear power, rather than trying to wean us off our damaging dependence on unreliable energy exporters. If the EU wants to get serious about energy security, it should be prioritising energy efficiency as the first line of defence”.

Greens/EFA vice-chair Bas Eickhout pointed out that the proposed strategy “will not create the energy system we need to stop climate warming greenhouse gases and limit the increase in global temperatures to below two degrees, which is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change”.

GUE/NGL group member Josu Juaristi was also wary of the commission’s announcements, explaining that, “in some member states investment in renewables is almost disappearing. Very little account is taken of citizens or local government. What happens is that the big energy companies’ control over our citizens is strengthened.

“We need to avoid a situation where the EU just leaves its ideas for renewable energy on paper – as we see happening at the moment”, he concluded.

The energy union is due to be discussed at this week’s council summit.

 www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/art…

About the author: Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine.

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Something else relevant to this topic – SustainabiliTank.info feels important to include here – is the upcoming acquisition of a Russian energy concern – LI Energy – headed by oligarch Mikhail Fridman – of the German RWE Dea company and all its global oil and gas production assets for a neat 5 billion Euro.

The Germans seem to think it is OK but the British are of a different opinion because RWE Dea owns a large North Sea production area which in case of further sanctions against Russia because of Mr. Putin’s involvement in the Ukraine, might cause a stoppage of production from those wells and leading to loss in employment and danger to the environment. Passing the ownership of Energy assets of Europe to Russian hands in light of the EU Energy plans of decreasing dependence on the Russians – might just be the wrong signal to the seriousness of an EU Energy Policy plan in general and the position German business takes on the larger European interests.

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