European Council & Energy Union

Written on the 2nd April, 2015

The European Council met on  19 and 20 March. One of the major issues was the response of the Heads of Government to the European Commission’s proposals for an Energy Union.   The European Council agreed to set out the first steps of an Energy Union and expressed a commitment to building affordable, secure and sustainable energy within the EU. The major part of their discussion focused on energy security and transparency in gas contracts with non-EU countries.  All gas contracts must be in line with EU law, be more transparent and  should not negatively impact on Europe’s energy security.  This was a compromise as the European Commission appeared to request vetting powers  over energy contracts agreed with non-EU countries.   Heads of Government also agreed to:-

  • develop innovative strategies for a new generation of renewables and increase energy efficiency.
  • step up EU diplomacy for a successful Paris Climate Summit in December 2015.
  • accelerate infrastructure projects for electricity, gas and for interconnectors with an emphasis on peripheral regions.

This does not reflect a great deal of progress in moves towards an Energy Union.  The emphasis was on the creation of an internal energy market, low carbon technologies and energy efficiency which has long been the subject for discussions in the energy policy area. It is already embedded in energy and climate change targets and features in spending programmes such as Horizon 2020, the Structural and Investment Funds, and the LIFE Programme.  The debate about key issues such as the large import of fossil fuels and the infrastructure choices to be funded were put off until another day

In terms of the UK, the discussions on the Energy Union did not feature in the Prime Minister’s statement to the  House of Commons on the European Council Meeting and it did not feature in the following debate, despite the fact that there were comments about ‘reforming the EU.’

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