EU’s energy union plans ‘muddled’ and lacking direction

Energy transition

Europe’s leaders botched the opportunity of delivering a clear and forward looking vision on the EU’s energy future, argues Wendel Trio.

This Op-Ed was published on on 30.3.2015

By Wendel Trio, Ddirector of Climate Action Network Europe

Clearly recognising the good and rejecting the bad is what distinguishes powerful strategies from muddled ones.

Earlier this month on 19 March, the EU’s heads of state and government endorsed plans for an “Energy Union with a forward-looking climate policy”.

The strategy sets out the steps for EU energy and climate policy for the next five years. Unfortunately, Europe’s leaders failed to use this opportunity to agree on a coherent vision for the energy transition away from harmful and outdated fossil fuels.

The conclusions should have provided a much clearer direction on prioritising the reduction of energy demand and the deployment of renewables.

Far too much of our decision-makers’ attention is taken up by plans for expansion of gas import infrastructure. Their focus should be on decreasing dependency on the overall import of gas.

Within the EU much of the existing gas import infrastructure especially for liquid natural gas, is currently not being used to its full capacity. Additionally, demand is not expected to increase significantly across any of the EU’s energy roadmap 2050 scenarios.

On the contrary, according to the European commission, a 40 per cent efficiency target by 2030 would end up reducing gas imports by 40 per cent.

The council called for both “fully implementing and rigorously enforcing existing energy legislation” and “reviewing and developing legislation related to emissions reduction, energy-efficiency and renewables to underpin the agreed 2030 targets; developing a reliable and transparent governance system”.

Member states rightly acknowledged the importance of the full implementation of EU energy legislation, especially on renewables and energy efficiency. The laws provide a robust basis for the deployment of renewables and the reduction of energy use across Europe, but their implementation still lags behind.

According to a recent report by the Coalition for Energy Savings, efforts around the implementation of the energy efficiency directive are far from impressive, despite more than two years passing since the directive came into force.

Delays and a ‘minimum possible’ approach means postponing benefits in terms of job creation, lower energy bills and protecting the climate.

Countries need to put their money where their mouth is and step up their efforts on implementing existing energy efficiency and renewables related legislation.

Both for tackling the climate crisis and for more investor certainty, the current legislation should also serve as the basis of the governance system for the 2030 targets.

A strategy that doesn’t set a clear path for the transition towards an efficient 100 per cent renewable energy system, risks dangerously drifting off course when it comes to our climate protection goals.

Europe should avoid locking itself into fossil fuel infrastructure. The political support that currently exists for an energy union needs to be capitalised on in the best possible way.

I believe it needs to be expressed in more ambitious policies, which will put energy savings and renewable energy first.