The European Union is seeking to speed up the creation of a common energy market to help its shift to a low-carbon economy and boost security of energy supplies amid a natural-gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine.
Energy and environment ministers from the EU’s 28 member states are meeting in Milan today to help build a compromise before a summit on Oct. 23-24 where the bloc’s leaders are expected to decide on policies for 2030. The challenge for governments is to reconcile the need for cheaper and safer energy while accelerating the pace of emissions reductions.
“The completion of an integrated internal energy market will increase solidarity among member states, ensure safety of energy supplies and support integration of local renewable energy sources with a view to achieving energy self- sufficiency,” Italy, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said on its website.
The EU energy strategy includes developing interconnections, modernizing infrastructure and diversifying supply sources. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president-designate of the next European Commission, has vowed to move toward an energy union with forward-looking climate policy as a pricing dispute led to the cutoff of Russian natural gas supplies to Ukraine, the transit country for around 15 percent of the EU demand for the fuel.
The EU is trying to broker a compromise between the two nations and proposed a temporary deal to restore flows before winter. The next round of three-way talks will be set this week, the commission said in a statement on Oct. 3.
While Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak on Sept. 26 called the EU “a big step” toward an agreement, Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Prodan said last week his country is “ready to reach an agreement, but not at the volumes and in the timeframes set by Russia.”
Concerns among EU governments over a possible disruption increase as Russia and Ukraine have been trading accusations of threats to EU-bound gas since July. European nations have already agreed to stress test of Europe’s energy system to help overcome a potential cutoff in the 2014-15 winter. Their leaders plan to decide on further measures to enhance the bloc’s energy security at the October summit.
“In the short term, the EU has the following overriding priority: to ensure that the best possible preparation and planning improves resilience to sudden disruptions in energy supplies, in particular during the coming winter,” the EU presidency said in a report sent to member states for discussion at today’s gathering.
The completion of the EU energy market by the end of 2014 and ending energy isolation of member states by 2015 remain “essential tools” for energy security, according to Italy. Investment challenges that member states face include the replacement of obsolete power plants and infrastructures to improve energy efficiency and lower energy costs.
The commission, the bloc’s regulatory arm, proposed in January the bloc adopt a binding goal to cut greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2030, accelerating the pace of emissions reduction from 20 percent in 2020 compared with 1990 levels. It also recommended an EU-wide target to boost the share of renewables in energy consumption to 27 percent.
Energy efficiency is the third pillar of the strategy for 2030, to be decided by EU leaders later this month. The commission proposed nations increase energy savings by 30 percent by 2030 compared with 20 percent targeted for the end of the current decade.
Copyright 2014 Bloomberg
Lead image: EU and Ukraine flag via Shutterstock