EU energy plan’s international scope called into question

The European Commission’s new plan for a single European market for energy supply, purchase and consumption, has come under fire for failing to address the opportunities offered by international trade.

The plan, endorsed by European member states last month, sets out the Commission’s proposed priorities for EU energy and climate policy over the next two years.

A Regent’s University London debate [15 April 2015] titled ‘EU Energy Union: A Realistic Possibility?’ was informed by a background paper produced by the Senior European Experts (SEE), an independent body of former high-ranking British diplomats and civil servants.

Andy Lebrecht, a member of SEE, and three other guest speakers at the debate offered a variety of opinions, noting that change is vital, but the global context for energy supply and demand has largely been ignored. Comments included:

Andy Lebrecht, SEE, and Former UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU:

“EU member states have traditionally given the Union limited powers and have differing policy perspectives. The most acute differences are on nuclear power, competition, and the use of targets to drive change.

“The EU depends on imports for over half of its energy needs. The security of external supplies, including diversity of suppliers and supply routes must be addressed.

“Greater transparency of international gas agreements is necessary, otherwise some EU countries will be exploited by a dominant supplier, which is clearly happening at present.”

Nick Butler, Visiting Professor & Chair of the King’s Policy Institute, King’s College London:

“The proposals as published so far take too little account of trade. The use of imports is discussed in terms of dependence when in fact it has developed because imports generally offer lower cost supplies.

“A completely internally focused policy is a mistake which risks repeating the errors of the Common Agricultural policy.”

Stephen Tindale, Research Fellow, Centre for European Reform and former Executive Director of Greenpeace:

“I wish I could say that EU Energy Union is possible, but my answer is ‘no.’ Energy is central to foreign policy and there is no way member states will give up the power to choose their energy mix.

“Everyone says they're for renewables but what does this mean? Fracking divides people, as does carbon capture. There’s scope for progress on energy efficiency, but binding measures are more important than binding targets.”

Dr Amelia Hadfield, Jean Monnet Chair in European Foreign Affairs, and Director of the CCCU Energy & Governance Group:

“I thought the SEE paper was sound and engaging, but could benefit from a more robust interrogation of foreign policy implications. Energy security lies in the hands of sovereign member states, but the recent announcement of a European Energy Union is sure to impact on their ability to operate as independent buyers.

“The EU faces tough choices. A ‘hard sell’ may ultimately demand that trade in energy be managed at EU-level in areas that bear directly upon issues of genuine strategic importance for the EU as a whole. If not, the EU will have to rely on member state ‘solidarity,’ or get serious about diversification and start shopping abroad.”

See the full ‘EU Energy Union: A Realistic Possibility?’ background paper HERE.