European Commission’s Working Programme: What’s in it for Energy?

European Commission’s Working Programme: What’s in it for Energy?

The European Commission launched, amid a great public fanfare, one month ago, its’ key policy initiatives for 2015, promising much change. It is a working plan built around the almost obsessive trilogy of keywords at the EU level: jobs - growth - investments. One can understand from this document that Juncker’s team has two main objectives: a €315-billion investment plan for Europe and a set of better, rather than more, regulations.

In the past five years, the Commission has proposed an average of 130 new initiatives in each annual Work Programme, whereas this latest one in the series comes armed with only 23 - two of them concerning energy and climate.

The first of these two initiatives is a “strategic framework” for an Energy Union that will focus on “energy supply security, integration of national energy markets, reduction in European energy demand, decarbonising the energy-mix and promoting research and innovation in the energy field”, although it is yet to be decided if it will be non-legislative or legislative. Furthermore, it will include “revision of the EU Emissions Trading System, as part of the legislative framework post-2020”, and consider implementation of the market stability reserve, which is currently being discussed by Member States and MEPs.

The European Commission’s Vice-President for the Energy Union, Mr. Maroš Šefčovič, set out a five-pillar structure for it last year, in October, which is likely to remain a ‘foundation stone’, but ‘the devil is in the details’, which is evident with the new energy governance system: a hot issue already. This may determine where regional levels get reinforced, and can influence, - it goes without saying, - energy prices. There is still plenty of scope for comment on the cornerstones of this resilient Energy Union; on what are the desired outcomes; who backs this ‘old-new’ project, and under which format; and most significantly, what will become of the internal energy market?

[Tweet "the new Commission intends to produce fewer, but better-quality regulations"]The Commission will bring forward a follow-up paper of its own in mid- to late-February, following an internal debate among Commissioners on the 21st of January, and a dedicated Energy Union Conference led by the Latvian EU Presidency on the 6th of February in Riga.
The second initiative is a non-legislative position, “Communication on the road to Paris – a multilateral response to climate change” that outlines the EU’s vision and expectations, and explains partner ambition in the context of the 2015 Agreement.

As we mentioned before, the new Commission intends to produce fewer, but better-quality regulations and, therefore, “cleanse” or “expunge” the 450 proposals inherited from the previous team. In this sense, 80 existing proposals are set to be binned and replaced by the 23 new ones. Hence, a “fitness check” will be conducted on the Renewables Energy Directive, the Energy Taxation Directive, the EU Emissions Trading System, the Fuels Quality Directive, the Industrial Emissions Directive, the Strategic Oil Stocks Directive, the Marine Fuels Directive, the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Air Quality Directive. Getting some of these off the list does not necessarily mean though, eternal oblivion. The Commission promises to come equipped with better proposals on certain matters, an approach criticised by many, if you take into account the slowness of the process.

[Tweet " investing over 300 billion EUR in traditional and new infrastructures in the next three years"]Central Europe Energy Partners, AISBL, welcomes Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker’s plan for closer economic and political integration, and, in particular, his proposals for deepening, strengthening and extending the European single market, investing over 300 billion EUR in traditional and new infrastructures in the next three years, in order to balance national austerity and reform programmes, whilst kick-starting the European economy, developing an Energy Union centered on the pooling of energy resources and pan-European energy networks, as well as ambitious renewables targets. This ‘Juncker Plan’ and programme aims at being the engine behind a political revival in Europe, designed not only to meet the major challenges faced by Europe – including, for example, unemployment, the fragile economic recovery, energy dependence, climate change, new technologies and the protection of privacy – but also, the expectations of citizens, especially in terms of proximity and transparency of the EU. It appears that Mr. Juncker wants, in his own words, to be a “bridge builder”, a builder of unity in diversity. CEEP wishes him and his team good luck in their endeavours.

In this context, energy security, innovation and reaching common European objectives will continue to be of high importance for CEEP, and we feel reinforced in this belief by the dialogue we had with the new commissioners, who underlined that the energy sector “has become one of the most significant themes and a clear focus in the work of the new Commission, both in internal, as well as external action”, to quote the Vice-President of the Commission, Ms. Federica Mogherini. Moreover, the Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, welcomed CEEP’s focus on concrete actions and our commitment to working towards common European objectives.

[Tweet "To reduce prices and increase the security, the EU should re-define its “gas relations”"]CEEP has emphasized, on many occasions, that lack of access to affordable energy is the key driver behind the slow erosion of competitiveness in Europe, and that it is high time to react. We must contribute to a change in energy costs. A European energy policy which focuses on security of supply and competitiveness is one of the ways forward; and we notice, with satisfaction, that the ‘new’ European Commission is heading in this direction. To reduce prices and increase the security of imports, the EU should re-define its “gas relations”, and overcome the diverging interests of EU Member States on secondary issues. It is high time that Europe flexes its political muscle to secure competitive energy supplies.

In 2015, Central Europe Energy Partners, AISBL, will continue to implement its’ main obligations and tasks – the ongoing support for, and advancement of, the integration of Central Europe’s energy sector, within the framework of common EU energy, energy security and climate policies. CEEP’s activities will be aimed at securing the interests of Central Europe: notably, that our position will be clearly and loudly presented, and well heard by those who count. CEEP will be seeking to promote a balanced approach to achieving Europe’s climate, sustainability and energy security objectives. This entails supporting a common and broad-based EU energy policy, which also takes into account the primary interests of Central Europe.

Janusz Luks, CEO, CEEP