EU Energy independence: a long way to go

Since 2007 the European Union has been trying to deal with its energy supply issues. The solution shall come in form of a single European market for electricity and gas, solely based on reliable sources. Therefore, EU based organizations like ENTSOG and ENTSOE are trying to prepare the networks, but there are still questions to answer concerning Europe and its future needs.

Source: Pixabay.com

At the end of 2016, Rosa PV, an elderly Spanish woman, used only candles to bring a bit of warmth to her house. She had been cut off power, due to unpaid electricity bills. The BBC stated that it were those candles which lit Rosa’s mattress and led to her tragic death. She was choked to death by fumes. Only one week before that incident, another person lost her life due to energy shortage. The 12-year-old Lucia Fuoli died in a fire believed to be caused by a short-circuit of an electric heater. Spanish authorities and the public were outraged and it lead to multiple demonstrations all over the country. Most of them blamed Spain’s high on energy prices that had left nearly 11% of its citizens unable to afford to heat their homes in 2014. In the past years, the prices rose distinctly about up to 70%.

Dependence on foreign supplies

It is estimated that that all EU member states together have a yearly consumption of 410 to 420 bm of gas, trend rising. The usage of gas is also linked to the EU’s plan to decrease CO2 and keep to the general ecological planning. However, as good as this planning seems, the intern production of gas in the EU keeps diminishing. Until 2030 it could be up to 40%, if there is no change of plans. Currently, about 65% of gas in the EU is being imported, that makes Russian Gazprom the number one supplier. Europe’s dependence of foreign supplies is obvious and makes it vulnerable to foreign policies. Best example was the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that led to shortages in several European countries like Slovakia, which are nearly a 100% dependent on Russian gas. To stop that, Europe begins to dream of an independent energy market.

“It’s a very important process” Alberto Pototschnig, head of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER), states. “It is the process which will address security supply issues”, he adds, describing the work of ENTSOG and ENTSOE. These two organizations were founded in 2009, as a result of the 2007 Third Energy Package for liberalization of the energy and gas market. Their tasks are defined here, including the increase of network interoperability and secured energy supply, establishing a pan-European legislative framework and the enhancement of cross-border trading and access. It all depends on these associations‘ ability to make compromises in the process. And still there are questions to ask. Safe energy supplies depend on reliable sources. Gerhard Roiss, General Director of the Austrian oil and gas company OMV, stated that for obtaining gas from Israel or Cyprus, it might take too long to build infrastructure needed. At the same time Egypt seems to be too unstable to be a reliable partner. Europe’s own resources in Norway are the most called on – but the question is: Can they hold up to Europe’s growing demands?

In the European Parliament, the opinions on this subject differ. The European United Left stated their support for the general idea of the package, but in the end its only getting worse for the European citizens. Environmental challenges seem to be growing and access to energy hasn’t got safer for the people. On the other hand, the European People’s Party Group is mainly focused on Europe’s independence from foreign policies. Resistance against geopolitical pressure applied to the EU should be built up. At the same time the EPP Group emphasized the potentially growing competitiveness of the European economy.

Fair solutions for all Europeans needed

Nonetheless, in this year’s MEU Vienna its up on the participants to decide on these topics, paying attention to their party’s position and national politics. Considering their personal views on these topics, paired with the learned interests and heated discussions in opposition – the decision making process might not be easy. Every member state has its own story to tell and own problems to deal with. But this dialogue is the only chance to find general and fair solutions for all of us here in Europe. We need people to go through this complex process – especially in times of alternative facts and subjective discussions. Let’s do that and see what’s coming around.

Jan Tewes

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