Parliament backs bold plans for EU’s energy future

mix_energy.jpg

The European Parliament yesterday (3 February) endorsed a comprehensive blueprint for the bloc’s future energy policy, including more ambitious targets on climate change and renewable energies in proposals due to be submitted to EU leaders next month.

MEPs voted 406 in favour and 168 against (87 abstentions) in favour of a report drawn up by Anne Laperrouze (ALDE, France) on the Second Strategic Energy Review, which was agreed upon last month by the Parliament’s committee on industry, research and energy (EURACTIV 22/01/09).

The EU’s future energy policy will be discussed by EU leaders in the 19-20 March European Council. 

In the report, the Parliament urges the Czech EU Presidency and the European Commission to present the summit with a “new ambitious and far-sighted diversification plan”. It called for the extension of the EU’s supply routes and sources to the Caspian region when “political conditions permit,” and mentioned the Nabucco, Turkey-Greece-Italy and South Stream pipelines as alternatives to Russian gas in the aftermath of the gas supply crisis between Russia and Ukraine.

Drawing lessons from the conflict, the bloc’s lawmakers called on the Commission to revisit the 2004 Security of Gas Supply Directive to include “emergency action plans”, both at EU and national level. They also stressed the need to invest in a single European gas grid, most urgently to connect the Baltic States to the Western European network.

To avoid future disruptions, the MEPs suggested adding an “energy security clause” to cooperation agreements with transit and producer countries to ensure that commercial disputes do not lead to supply disruptions. A trilateral agreement between the EU, Russia and Ukraine was deemed necessary to secure gas supply in the future.

Long-term targets

In the long run, MEPs said the bloc should set ambitious climate goals for 2050, namely a target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80%, improve energy efficiency by 35%, and increase the share of renewables in the EU’s energy mix to 60%.

While energy efficiency was deemed to be the biggest contributor to safeguarding the Union’s energy needs, the Parliament stated that nuclear should play an important part in the future energy mix, rejecting by a large majority an amendment that would have obliged member states to devise a phase-out plan.

Speaking to MEPs, EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the Russia-Ukraine gas crisis made the Parliament's report on the Second Strategic Energy Review timely as it addresses issues such as energy efficiency, external relations and use of local resources in more detail than the Commission's proposal.

Outlining the Commission's future tasks in the area, Piebalgs said: "One important point where the Commission will make a lot of further effort is on the consolidation of activities in different areas." He argued that the Commission's proposal last week to use €3.5. billion as part of an economic recovery package to build energy infrastructure combined security of supply, technology and European recovery objectives in the right way (EURACTIV 29/01/09).

MEP Anne Laperrouze  (ALDE, France), the Parliament's rapporteur on the dossier, stressed there were many dimensions to the effort to create a single European energy policy. 

"In the short term, we must immediately develop renewable energy and energy efficiency, which also creates employment, within the framework of the economic plan presented by the European Commission. In the medium to long term, in order to avoid the risk of a shortage by 2030, we must create a Europe wide roadmap in order to generate the investment needed for the production and transport of energy and build a research and development programme to develop energy for the future: renewable energy with a particular stress on solar energy and fourth generation reactors. But R&D is also about intelligent networks and energy storage," she said.

MEP Romana Jordan Cizelj (EPP-ED, Slovenia) called for a "foreign energy policy" to reduce problems with energy imports, adding that the Lisbon Treaty is needed to remove institutional impediments to the formation of foreign policies.

"Our expectations about a common foreign energy policy would be more objective if we made concrete steps in the fields already defined as a part of the common energy policy. I believe that in this mandate, we should adopt the Third Liberalisation Package for Gas and Electricity with unified rules of market in the Union," she said.

In contrast, the Greens were not impressed with the report. According to German Green MEP Rebecca Harms, the rapporteur had aimed to boost the nuclear industry and prepare ground for future state subsidies for building nuclear reactors, all in agreement with the Commission. She called for genuine investment priorities in energy efficiency and renewables instead, pointing out that 38% of MEPs had voted against the nuclear strategy.

The EU's Second Strategic Energy Review was proposed by the European Commission in November 2008. It seeks to address security of energy supply and set out policy priorities in the field of energy for the next Commission.

The first Strategic Energy Review, published in 2007 as part of a wider communication on energy and climate, provided the framework for the development of the EU's '20-20-20' policy.

20% less CO2 by 2020 and 20% more renewable energy over the same period: these were the historic commitments set by member states in March 2007 and translated into the 'package' of energy and climate proposals presented by the EU executive on 23 January 2008. 

The European Parliament responded with a report drafted by French Liberal MEP Anne Laperrouze (ALDE), which was adopted by the EU assembly's committee on industry, research and energy by large majority on 21 January 2009.

  • 19-20 March:  EU heads of state and government to debate Strategic Energy Review during EU summit.
  • March 2010:  EU summit to endorse Energy Action Plan for 2010 onwards.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe
Contribute