Prof. Jerzy Buzek, Chairman of the ITRE Committee (EP) spoke with Jakub Przyborowicz, CEEP’s co-ordinator of European Institutions’ Affairs, about his vision on the Energy Union, how to accomplish it, what should be the priorities for the coming months and what does this project mean for the industry.
Jakub Przyborowicz (JP): Why do we need an Energy Union?
Jerzy Buzek (JB): Secure, cheaper and cleaner energy is a challenge which no EU Member State is capable of solving separately. This is why European countries agreed on a common energy policy almost ten years ago. Today, its creation still leaves a lot to be desired.What we need is a political umbrella embracing our energy and climate policy, above all the sectors and players. This is the role I expected of the European Energy Community which I proposed as President of the European Parliament, together with Jacques Delors, in May 2010. Energy Union is a new brand of that initiative. At the same time, whilst solving our energy challenges, the Union can become a strong driver of competitiveness, economic growth, and jobs.
(JP): How to accomplish it?
(JB): First of all, by completing the Internal Energy Market. This means full enforcement of all the relevant laws by EU Member States. The vast majority have been waiting on the table for a long time in the form of the Third Energy Package. This is the software of the market, its “soul”.
However, the market also needs a “body”, which is the hardware –, infrastructure: interconnections, generation, transmission, distribution and storage capacity, as well as flexibility mechanisms for integrating energy from renewable sources.
The third absolute priority, in my opinion, is joint research on new energy technologies. It will not only allow us to fully exploit the potential of our indigenous sources, but also to use any chosen energy source more smartly and efficiently.
(JP): Will Energy Union improve our energy security?
(JB): Today, motorways in the EU don’t end at national borders, but energy networks do. When we interconnect our grids into an Internal Energy Market, we will eliminate energy islands and ensure constant energy supply to all regions. This will enable us to help each other in the case of any energy shortage or externally-caused crisis. We must remember that Europe’s energy security is not simply confined within the EU. For nearly ten years, our neighbours in the East and South-East, from Ukraine to Albania, have been connected to the EU through the Energy Community Treaty. They have committed to enforcing the EU’s acquis related to energy, and they should be part of pan-European energy solidarity and the provisions of the Energy Union.
(JP): What about the ‘controversial for some’ joint purchasing of gas?
(JB): Collective purchasing was an important goal of the 2010 European Energy Community proposal. A mechanism to increase the negotiating power of small buyers, with full respect for competition rules, was of particular interest to Central and Eastern regions of the EU. Countries from the West have been more reserved about the idea. Today, under the Energy Union, we are discussing co-ordination and voluntary demand aggregation for joint purchasing during crises. However, in the long-term perspective, with a fully effective Internal Energy Market, the need for any joint purchasing arrangement may simply disappear. Subsequently, with the free flow of energy across Europe, in many directions, competition will facilitate better bargaining positions and lower energy prices.
(JP): What will Energy Union mean for Europe’s energy-intensive industries?
(JB): We cannot afford further leakage of industry out of Europe. A powerful solution lies in combining lower energy prices – owing to a competition-based internal market – with higher industrial competitiveness accomplished through a re-industrialisation strategy. Together with environmental sustainability, these two fields form the EU’s well-known energy policy triangle. A big task ahead is to ensure that all three sides of the triangle are well-balanced.