To bring us back to reality after a long weekend, we jumped right back into briefings Tuesday morning with the European External Action Service (EEAS) on the structure of EEAS, EU-US relations, and Cyber Security and then a briefing at the US Mission regarding TTIP. It was a busy and full day, but it put us right back on track! Yesterday, we had another energetic day at the Directorate General (DG) for Energy. Our briefing covered the external dimension of the EU energy policy. Being graciously hosted by a very intellectual and genuine British man, he had been working with the DG of energy for many years and was able to provide us with not only information regarding what was occurring now in EU energy policy but also knowledge as to how the policy has changed over time and his own personal experience with it.
To begin we spoke about energy policy considerations in the EU. Currently, all member states are import dependent on fossil fuels and depends on few suppliers: Russia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Algeria, and Qatar, which can provide instability to energy security. As well there are man risks with energy in the EU such as an ageing energy infrastructure, changing energy prices, climate change, and geopolitical factors affecting energy flow to name few. In regards to all this, the Treaties of the EU have set aims to ensure the functioning of the energy market, ensure the security of the EU energy supply, promote energy efficiency, develop renewable forms of energy, and promote the interconnection of energy networks. As of today, the EU had many responses internally to meet these aims. One of the most important responses has been the “20-20-20” Energy/Climate Policy which requires the EU to have 20% reduction in Greenhouse gases by 2020 compared to 1990, 20% energy efficiency improvements by 2020, and 20% share of renewables in overall energy consumption by 2020. However, my question is, does the EU have the authority to enforce environmental regulations? In the US we have the EPA who is our environmental authoritative body, however, technically it is the national governments in the EU who have the authority in environmental matters. It will be the job of the EU to promote the policy to the national governments so that they will influence their populations to change their norms and promote environmental change, but how will they enforce it and what will happen if a Member State does not meet the requirements?
Furthermore, these efforts are challenged when 6 member states rely solely on Russia as their external supplier for all gas and 3 of them use gas as over one fourth of their total energy needs via the Russia pipelines into Europe built during the Soviet regime. In March 2014 the European Council called upon the European Commission to do a study on EU energy security due to the current geopolitical risks. The Commission, therefore, tested the impact a halt in gas supplies from Russia directly or through Ukraine for 1 month or 6 months in February (the coldest, most energy demanding month) would have on the EU’s energy system. I thought this was really cool! When the “Stress Test” was conducted, the Member States most heavily affected were members of the Energy Community: Finland, Estonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. Due to this “Stress Test,” the EU has called for a market-based approach with gas, the urgent completion of infrastructure project, utilize liquefied natural gas import facilities, energy efficiency and supply diversification, and increasing cross-boarder cooperation. A main one, however, is creating reverse flows in the Russian pipes that already exist in these countries by changing them so that gas can be pumped from the other side from European states. Within the next 5 years, the EU has set priorities for the Energy Union in hopes to better energy security.
Our speaker has worked first hand with Russians and was able to provide meaningful insight into the EU-Russian energy relationship as well. When asked if he thought the EU would ever fully sanction Russia and cut off all relationships, he said no. To him, Russia first would not want to put itself in that situations as it could not sustain itself, but also he suggested that Russians looks to Europe for ideas, partnerships, any would not want to jeopardize that. However, due to Russia’s actions, the EU is now aware that their energy security needs to become a priority and that becoming more energy efficient and less energy import dependent is I’m their best interest. Therefore, many European countries have taken initiatives to becoming more eco-friendly and rely as much on renewable as they can.
The DG for energy was very welcoming and our speaker was very informative and kind!