Commission Vice-President Maroš Šef?ovi? unveiled the executive’s plans for laying the foundations of the Energy Union, until the end of its term in 2019.
Speaking to a small number of journalists ahead of the publication of a massive package of documents due today (19 November), Šef?ovi? regretted the timing of the launch of the Communication, which comes when public attention is focused on the Paris attacks, and the need to strengthen security in the Union.
But Šef?ovi? said that the French set a good example, by sticking to their plan to host COP21 from 30 December, and stated that he was to meet in Paris French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Ségolène Royal very shortly.
The Vice-President said that the European Commission needed “a very solid place in the political calendar” of the EU, in order to push forward on the Energy Union, despite negative political developments.
He said that in the same way as EU heads of state and governments discussed macroeconomics at regular summits in Spring and Summer, the Commission wanted political attention for the Energy Union in the Autumn.
“This is important to have regularity in assessments, to synchronise reporting obligations from the Commission to the member states and vice-versa,” he said.
Šef?ovi? explained that the executive wanted to present its Communication not only to the energy ministers, but to the ministers of environment, of transport, and to the competitiveness ministers, who are responsible of research and innovation. He said he hoped that the issue would be taken up at EU summit level, although he conceded that it won’t probably be the December summit.
“But from the perspective of next year, it’s clear that with all these proposals we are going to put on the table, I’m sure we will need a strong involvement of heads of state and government. We will need a political debate at the highest level, and I think we will need some arbitration as we will be progressing with our proposals,” Šef?ovi? said.
Structure of the package
Refereeing the package of documents due to be presented today, Šef?ovi? explained that those consist of the political communication, which includes progress achieved, plans for the future, and policy conclusions. These would be linked to annexes which would spell out how the national energy and climate plans should be drafted, as the Commission wants to gather those plans by 2017.
As a second part of the package, the European Commission is presenting the key indicators document, which he called “very technical”, but which would allow it to monitor in the future how member states and the Union as a whole is progressing in implementing energy policies.
A third element of which Šef?ovi? said he was very proud was a 28-country analysis, produced on the base of very intense bilaterial consultations.
Beyond this “governance package”, Šef?ovi? said that a second list of projects of common interest was to be presented, with 195 infrastructure projects in the fields of electricity and gas. He said an “enormous amount of work” had been invested in compiling this list, as it had been discussed first at the level of transmission system operators, and then at the level of member states.
Šef?ovi? said the goal was to progress fast in the implementation of these projects, with an annual review on the progress and quick identification of the eventual hurdles and tailor-made assistance to overcome the problems.
Two more deliverables are the reports by Consumers Commissioner V?ra Jourová, on making sure that consumers are in the centre of EU’s energy policies, and a document from Eurostat, on how to access energy prices across Europe, which would assess what component in the energy price is energy-related, and prompt discussions at the national level if practices need to be changed.
Regarding the political messages, Šef?ovi? said that the first was linked to COP21, and highlights the fact that the EU wants to continue its leadership in the transition toward low-carbon societies.
The second message, he said, is that this transition should be socially fair and consumer-centred, meaning that a lot of attention would be devoted to tackling the energy poverty issue, as well as the issue of professions linked to energy transition that are disappearing.
The third message, according to the Energy Union chief, is that the geopolitical challenges are not going away, which means that in terms of energy security, more diversification, better connections, and better functioning of the internal energy market, matter.
The fourth and last message is that the EU is establishing a mechanism that brings transparency and predictability to investors. Šef?ovi? said that investors had frequently asked for assurances about the EU’s vision, that policies would not be changed every two-three tears.
Legislative plans for 2016
Šef?ovi? said that for his services, 2016 was “very clearly the year of delivery”.
“We want to deliver 90% of what we promised to do under the Energy Union umbrella,” he said, explaining that this would be presented in three legislative packages.
In February 2016, the security of supply package will likely be presented, which will contain the new security of gas supply directive, the LNG strategy, and provisions for more transparency for Intergovernmental Agreements (IGA’s). Sefocovic referred to the IGAs signed between a number of EU member states and Russia on South Stream, which proved to be in breach of EU law. The heating and cooling strategy would be part of the same package.
In summer, Šef?ovi? stated that the Commission plans to show “that we mean business after Paris”, meaning that after COP21, the executive would present its effort-sharing decision.
“That in practice means that every member state will get one number, and this number will represent the percentage by which they will have to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the non-ETS sector, meaning in transport, buildings and agriculture. This would go together the Commission communication on decarbonisation of transport, on the Commission proposal on emissions performance of buildings and “Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry” (LULUCF) sector, which is very important for agriculture.
In autumn, the European Commission plans to present its comprehensive strategy in the field of innovation in the field of energy. The last package would be centred around the new electricity market design, together with a new directive on renewables, where the Commission would have to factor in the new target for 2030, and make sure that collectively, the EU would be able to deliver.
“We are pushing all these files as much as we can, with the clear aim to present to the member states all the pieces of the puzzle,” Šef?ovi? said, adding that by doing this, the Commission would also ask member states to proceed with the draft national energy and climate plans.
Šef?ovi? said he knew member states had a preference to start the elaboration of the national plans on a later date, but added that the Commission considered that 2017 should be the “ideal date”, because then the Commission could work on the real plans still on 2018, allowing the EU executive to make an assessment before the end of its term in 2019.
“This would set very solid foundations for the Energy Union for the next European Commission,” he added.