We wrote recently about Europe’s aim to improve energy efficiency in order to reduce its reliance on Russia’s gas imports. [Europe’s Energy Efficiency Plan May Reduce the Need for Russia’s Gas.] The quest for energy independence is in response to the Russia-Ukraine disputes. With Russia hitting back at Western sanctions by reducing gas supplies to Europe, the region has realised that it can no longer rely on this energy resource.
The Institute for Public and Policy Research says this dependence could be reduced rather significantly if EU leaders place a higher priority on energy efficiency savings. However, while it is true that energy efficiency will reduce dependence on Russia’s gas supplies, renewable integration has been recognised as another sure way to strengthen energy security.
Integration of renewable generation is central to the European Commission’s broader energy and climate objectives in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving the security of energy supply, diversifying energy supplies and improving Europe’s industrial competitiveness.
Creating a common energy market
The European Union is seeking to speed up the creation of a common energy market to help its shift to a low-carbon economy, as well as boost security of energy supplies.
Energy and environment ministers from the EU’s 28 member states are meeting to help build a compromise before a summit at the end of the month 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 reducing carbon emissions.
An integrated internal energy market has the potential to increase solidarity among member states, ensure the security of energy supplies and support integration of local renewable energy sources with a view to achieving energy independence.
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% of the EU fuel demand.
Putting an end to energy isolation
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. Investment challenges that member states face include the replacement of ageing power plants and infrastructures to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs.
The Commission, the bloc’s regulatory arm, proposed in January the bloc adopt a binding goal to cut greenhouse gases by 40% 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% by 2030 compared with 20% targeted for the end of the current decade.