EU to unveil plans for energy ‘industrial revolution’

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In a paper to be presented this week, the Commission proposes a three-year road map towards a common European energy policy, with the aim of achieving a 20% greenhouse-gas emissions reduction by 2020.

On 10 January 2007, the Commission will put forward a series of energy reports and policy proposals, which it hopes will be a catalyst for “a new industrial revolution” that will “transform Europe into a highly energy-efficient and low-CO2 energy economy” by the mid-century.

“The days of secure, cheap energy for Europe are over,” the EU executive warns in a Strategic Energy Review, which forms the centre-piece of the package.

The report, a draft copy of which was obtained by EURACTIV, points to climate change, increasing import dependence and higher energy prices as challenges faced by all EU members and says “a common European response is necessary” to address them.

“With current trends and policies, the EU’s energy-import dependence will jump from 50% of total energy consumption today to 65% in 2030,” the Commission warns. By that time, it adds, dependence on gas imports will have increased from 57% to 84% and oil from 82% to 93%, making Europe increasingly vulnerable to major oil and gas producers.

The paper also points out that “energy accounts for 93% of carbon dioxide emissions” and therefore lies “at the root of climate change”. And, despite current efforts to curb emissions, it predicts they will increase “by around 5% by 2030”, leading the Commission to conclude that “the EU’s present energy policy is not sustainable”.

To address those challenges, the Commission proposes an Action Plan, to be implemented in the next three years. It calls on the European Parliament and on EU leaders to endorse the plan at the forthcoming summit in March.

“The point of departure for a common energy policy must be combating climate change, promoting jobs and growth and limiting the EU’s external vulnerability to imported hydrocarbons,” the Commission says.

The objective, according to one senior EU official, should be a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020, something that should translate to around a 15% CO2 reduction compared with the Kyoto Protocol’s base year of 1990.

Concrete steps put forward in the paper include:

  • Completing the internal market for electricity and gas with “a clearer separation of energy production from distribution” for large energy utilities and “stronger independent regulatory control which considers the interests of Europe as a whole”, not just national interests, “as is too often the case at present”; 
  • a target for renewable energies for 2020, which some EU officials say could be set at 20% of  Europe’s total energy consumption;
  • a minimum target for biofuels for 2020; 
  • an objective to improve energy efficiency by 20% by 2020;
  • a big push for energy research and development with an increase by “at least 50%” of annual spending over the next seven years on low-carbon technologies;
  • solidarity mechanism to deal with supply crisis, including a new energy observatory and a network of energy correspondents, and;
  • common external energy policy to forge closer relations with main supplier, consumer and transit countries.

Progress towards those aims would be closely monitored by the Commission in a series of biannual reports.

The Commission opened a wide-ranging debate on a future European energy policy with the publication of a Green Paper in March 2006. The paper was published upon EU leaders' suggestion at the Hampton Court summit during the UK Presidency in autumn 2005.

The move was prompted by mounting concerns regarding high oil and gas prices and worries about Europe's increasing dependency on a few external suppliers, as well as the global-warming crisis.

  • 10 Jan. 2007: Commission to present energy package.

From 8-12 January,  EURACTIV is running a 'Special Week' series of articles on energy. Your comments and reactions are welcome. Please send a letter to the editor to: 
letters@euractiv.com.

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