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23 November 2015

2016, the “delivery year” of the Energy Union


The European Commission finally released this 18th of November, its first report on the « State of the Energy Union ». This report, published along with several other technical documents and guidelines for Member States national plans, aimed at giving concrete substance to the bold project carried out by Vice-President Maros Sefcovic: unite each Member State’s interests around a unique, ambitious, and consistent European Energy Strategy. Even though this long-standing desire struggles to find its model, the message of the European Commission has been well heard: the EU is moving forward, and 2016 will be the first “Delivery Year” of the future Energy Union.

Substantial progress has been achieved since the publication of the Energy Union Strategy, last February. The latest figures from the European Environment Agency show that the EU comfortably exceeded its 20% by 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target six years early – in 2014, emissions were 23% below 1990 levels, while the economy grew by 46%. Regarding Energy Efficiency, the European Commission remains optimistic that the 20% target will be achieved, but calls for further efforts, in particular in the buildings, transport and generation sectors, and for improved financing schemes. Renewable energies are not at rest, as the European Union is also on track to meet its targets, and a new Strategic Energy Technologies (SET) plan to foster the development of clean, low-carbon energy technologies has also been released in 2015.
On the French side, the European Commission welcomed the efforts made by France, on track to achieve most of its objectives (interconnections, CO2 emission reductions for new vehicles, GES emission reduction, RES share in final consumption, etc.). However according to the EC, it is too early to claim for victory; some improvements still have to be made regarding Energy Efficiency, and price competitiveness…

Governance, the missing piece of the Energy Union puzzle

A crucial feature of the future Energy Union remains quite blurred: how to design a stable and solid governance framework, able to unify national interests in a global European Energy Strategy? The guidelines published by the EC on the streamlining of national energy and climate plans seem to be the first building block, as a way to guarantee consistency within each member State energy policy, while preserving a flexibility of action that is held dear by most of the member states. But these guidelines do not answer the main question raised by many actors of the sector after the adoption of the climate-energy package in 2030: how to achieve a binding target at a EU level, without imposing binding constraints on European countries? As for security of supply, the answer would be regional… And it could be next year.

2016: « Delivery year of the Energy Union »?

As announced by Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete, “the Energy Union is starting to take shape […] we should now move to full scale delivery of all actions needed.” Above the eagerly awaited Governance proposal, many others are expected next year, to give substance to the Energy Union. Vice-president Maros Sefcovic confirmed the publication of legislative proposals in 2016, to review the Renewable Energy Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive. A proposal on a new European Energy market design should also be submitted, to ensure that the European Energy transition is completed, in a cost-efficient way and without additional threats on EU security of supply. In those documents, the regional approach shall prevail: step by step, the “Energy Regions” shall then prefigure, and compose the future “Energy Union”.

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