The EU should focus its attention on building new power production and transmission capacity, because energy security is not only about diversifying supplies away from oil and gas, said speakers at a conference organised by the Czech EU Presidency. EURACTIV Czech Republic reports from Ostrava.
Speakers at the conference underlined the importance of investing in new transmission capacity – both at national level and across borders – to ensure a better functioning of the internal electricity market and meet the EU’s 2020 renewable energy goals.
Mirek Topolánek, Czech prime minister and host of the conference, said transmission networks needed upgrading as they had previously been designed mainly for the needs of individual member states, and not for cross-border trading within the EU’s internal market.
“Without a common energy policy, the common market will remain only a concept, European solidarity will become a cliché and energy security will be just a chimera,” stated Topolánek.
Europe, he added, should consider what energy sources it wants to rely on so as to decrease its dependence on imported oil and gas and meet its environmental goals. Insufficient production capacity was one of the factors behind the energy price hikes that grabbed headlines before the economic crisis in September, Topolánek said.
Participants agreed that no technology should be ruled out, including nuclear, provided that it complies with safety and environment requirements. Decisions on the energy mix should remain firmly within national governments’ hands, they said.
Building a true European grid
But the conference’s main conclusion was the need to build new transmission capacities. Coordination among member states is necessary in this respect, according to the conference conclusions. Moreover, the need to simplify and harmonise authorisation procedures for construction of new high voltage power lines was highlighted.
Participants welcomed the recent granting of 3.5 billion euros for the development of the energy sector, mostly for transmission (EURACTIV 29/01/09). One of the recurring issues of the conference was renewable resources (especially wind energy) and their impact on grid stability.
Czech proposal on single tariff
The Czech Presidency came up with a proposal for a so-called ‘single tariff’ for international energy transmission.
Under current rules, cross-border transmission of electricity among EU member states is not compensated by the buyer of the energy. Instead, transmission fees are paid for by the consumers of the country where the transmission is carried out.
In other words, when an Austrian customer buys energy from Germany and transmission is made through the Czech Republic, it is not the Austrian buyer who pays transmission fees but customers in the Czech Republic. This rule was established in the past in order to promote cross-border trading, but was considered by conference participants to be unfair.
The proceeds from these fees could then be used for investment in strengthening grids, it was suggested. Topolanek said Prague would like to address the issue in discussions on the third liberalisation package, which the presidency hopes to conclude before the end of the European Parliament’s current term.
Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, responsible for European affairs, told EURACTIV.cz that the final decision should be based on the compromise agreed upon by member states in October 2008 (EURACTIV 13/10/08).
He indicated that the presidency could come up with concessions for the Parliament in the field of consumer protection, as such issues are not too sensitive for member countries, but could be appealing for MEPs in the context of the upcoming European elections.