Greg Arrowsmith and Charlotte Billingham (Foundation for European Progressive Studies)
A decision in the field of energy policy and climate protection, which the EU is about to deliver within the next 12 months, will influence our way of acquisition and exploitation of energy for the next several decades. Above all, it will have an impact on the energy security, energy industry, fuel expenditures, and the global efforts to overcome risks related to climate change. At this moment, plans for the establishment of an Energy Union – which will, as many hope, solve a series of economic and social problems – become increasingly prominent.
The functioning of such a union must first and foremost be closely tied to environmental policy. Related to this is also the question of energy security, which is, in light of the Ukrainian crisis, resonating more than ever before. The EU is currently importing over half of its energy, including 90 percent of oil, 66 percent of natural gas, and 62 percent of coal. Not only because of our dependence on Russia, it is necessary to put greater emphasis on the development of renewable resources and to diversify the supplies of fossil fuels. Another area, which the Union must focus on, is the efficiency of energy use. More sophisticated indicators of measuring consumption and a strict supervision of carbon emissions should help accomplish this goal. An essential part of establishing this Union is also raising the awareness among the EU citizens concerning the advantages of energy-saving products as well as the fact that every little change in our lifestyle could lead to a significant decrease in energy costs. However, all these steps demand an explicit signal from political leaders towards the investors, who would then be assured that the resources expended would be capitalized on the European market.
At the core of the new Energy Union would be a European “super-fund”, created for the purpose of the financing of the infrastructure for clean energy. The quality of greater projects would then be preferred over the quantity of smaller projects. The main idea behind this “super-fund” is to help implement transnational projects whose costs would normally be too high for individual Member States to bear. This does not, of course, mean putting an end to small national tenders. However, the above-mentioned fund should primarily serve as an instrument of deepening the European cooperation, i.e. focusing on the implementation of joint plans. Finally, a verdict regarding the accessibility of these finances should be subject to strict evaluation from the viewpoint of efficiency and regional planning.
(The study can be downloaded here)