Energy Union: Road to European Security
Energy is the reason European countries initially decided to unite in order to provide the continent with security and peace. Jean Monnet, one of the European Union’s Founding Fathers saw coal and steel as key aspects of the European cooperation. The Treaty of Paris in 1951 brought the European Coal and Steel Community, and the Treaty of Rome in 1957 created Euratom, the milestones in the creation of energy union among the European countries. Many credit these unions for the fact that there was no major war on the European continent since the Second World War. However recent geopolitical tensions tied to the conflict of interests regarding energy have been alarming.
In addition to the European Union’s concern over Russia’s foreign policy, the past couple of years have been overall turbulent for the European energy market. The EU Commission has been working on creating plans to reduce European dependence on energy import, and to avoid gas supply disruption. Gas currently covers one quarter of the EU’s energy consumption and the EU is the biggest gas importer in the world. While addressing the grand problems of the democratic deficit and the refugee crisis, EU aims to pinpoint the issues concerning energy, and most important of them-energy security vis-à-vis the Energy Union.
“The Energy Union Strategy, launched one year ago, promised to provide all Europeans with energy which is secure, sustainable, and competitive. Today’s package focuses on the security of our supply, but touches upon all three overarching goals. By reducing our energy demand, and better managing our supply from external sources we are delivering on our promise and enhancing the stability of Europe’s energy market,” Maroš Šefčovič, Commission Vice-President for Energy Union, said.
Background: Energy An Essential Part Of Security
The treaty on the European Coal and Steel Community paved the way for EU energy policies, which later involved nuclear energy. However, with the end of Cold War, European countries had to take another look at their energy security concerns, as the climate change issue just began to be voiced. Treaty of Lisbon of 2009 solidified the importance of energy in the EU constitution. Art. 194(1) of the Lisbon Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU or ‘Lisbon Treaty’) sets out the four main aims of the EU’s energy policy:
- to ensure the functioning of the energy market;
- to ensure the security of supply in the Union;
- to promote energy efficiency and energy saving, and develop new and renewable forms of energy;
The EU Commission took responsibility to see that Europe has access to sustainable and competitive energy, and the importance of supply cannot be understated. The Commission published its Communication on Energy Union on February 25, 2015. This Communication calls for a fundamental transformation of Europe’s energy system: to speak globally with one voice; to, inter alia, build a sustainable, low-carbon and climate-friendly economy that is designed to last; where energy flows freely across borders, based on competition and the best possible use of resources; with citizens at its core, where citizens take ownership of the energy transition, benefit from new technologies to reduce their bills, participate actively in the market, and where vulnerable consumers are protected.
Energy Union will provide a fresh outlook on the role of energy efficiency plays in protecting vulnerable consumers and mentions that energy poverty can be tackled through a combination of measures, mainly in the social field and within the competence of authorities on the national, regional or local levels. It refers to the importance in moderating energy demand through energy efficiency improvements. European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said at the EU Sustainable Energy Week in June 2015 that he and the Energy Commissioner Arias Cañete would “establish and promote ‘energy efficiency first’ as a fundamental principle of the Energy Union and with it the moderation of demand. This is why we have invited Member States to give energy efficiency primary consideration in their policies and to consider energy efficiency as an energy source in its own right.” Yet the task of moderating energy demand is as challenging as its long-term objectives.
Objectives of the Energy Union:
- Support the development of the internal market’s hardware
- Implement and upgrade the internal energy market’s software
- Enhance regional cooperation within a common EU framework
- Encourage market standardization to allow a new deal for consumers
- National authorities to develop social systems to tackle energy poverty
Governance of the Energy Union plays an important role its long-term objectives of the Energy Union 2030. It will aim to channel its efforts towards energy efficiency and renewable energy. Its role reflects the image of the European Union as a key player on the international arena. According to the communication (page 16) actions should be grouped around the following four core priorities, to which Member States and the Commission would commit to: Being the world leader in developing the next generation of renewable energy technologies, including environment-friendly production and use of biomass and biofuels, together with energy storage; Facilitating the participation of consumers in the energy transition through smart grids, smart home appliances, smart cities, and home automation systems;
Efficient energy systems, and harnessing technology to make the building stock energy neutral; and More sustainable transport systems that develop and deploy at large scale innovative technologies and services to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Role of the Energy Union
If the most important natural resources used to be coal and steel in order to provide security for Europe, today the needs have changed. The demand for coal had been dramatically decreasing, as had the coal prices. Yet no other energy source is as crucial for Europe as the natural gas. Making sure that this union will indeed provide a sustainable and competitive energy market will require the Commission’s dedication to the project. The Union however is likely to face the challenges of European disunity, marked by the debates about Brexit. The Energy Union however has a full potential to act a glue of the energy policies among the Member States, thus ensuring the integrity and security of the Union.
Source Reference: eceee.org