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EU plans new Energy Union

The EU has published a draft strategy for establishing an Energy Union focused on an integrated low carbon future, as well as announcing its wish list for the upcoming UN climate conference in Paris.

The EU has published a draft strategy for establishing an Energy Union focused on an integrated low carbon future, as well as announcing its wish list for the upcoming UN climate conference in Paris.

According to the European Commission, the plans for a new Energy Union based on integration, energy security and low carbon solutions is a necessary response to aging grids, malfunctioning markets and too much dependence on energy imports from outside the European bloc. 

According to the Commission’s calculations, the EU currently imports 53 per cent of its energy, making it the largest energy importer in the world. 

Prerequisite for action

The need to better integrate national energy markets into a wider European system of interconnected grids is also a vital prerequisite for dealing with the “unavoidable challenge of shifting to a low carbon economy”, the Commission’s statement warns.

“The EU has energy rules set at the European level, but in practice it has 28 national regulatory frameworks. This cannot continue…the current market design and national policies do not set the right incentives and provide insufficient predictability for potential [low carbon] investors.”

Interconnection

As part of plans to increase market efficiency and competition, the Energy Union would enable consumers in any member state to buy their energy freely from a company in a different member state.

As a result, a minimum interconnection target of 10 per cent by 2020 has been set for electricity capacity across the bloc, with a 15 per cent target planned for 2030. 

The Commission also plans to provide more support for smart technologies that enable consumers to gain more control over their own energy consumption and generation, as well as establish a new renewable energy research and innovation programme to maintain Europe’s position as a leader in low carbon technology development. 

Paris Protocol

The draft Energy Union strategy, which aligns with the EU’s already agreed 2030 climate change targets, was released in tandem with the EU’s planned contribution for December’s UN climate conference in Paris.

The Paris conference is expected to deliver an internationally-binding agreement for tackling climate change beyond 2020. 

The document, named The Paris Protocol, draws heavily on the EU’s 2030 package as an example of best practice and calls for a legally-binding global greenhouse gas reduction target of 60 per cent by 2050, against a 2010 baseline. 

The EU itself aims to achieve an 80 per cent reduction by 2050 (against 2010 levels). 

‘Opening gambit’

Liz Gallagher, climate diplomacy leader at not-for-profit environmental body, E3G, called the protocol “an important milestone, but only the opening gambit for Paris.”

“There is a deal to be done in Paris, and Europe will need to work with others to go beyond their current levels of ambition”, she said.