Energy Union's Goals — Overtaken by Events?

Commentary | May 18, 2017

The Energy Union, an ‘umbrella strategy’ launched two years ago, was initially aimed at insuring Europe’s smooth transition to the low-carbon/non-carbon future. The plan was to ensure that European citizens have unrestricted access to secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy sources.

The Energy Union was also designed to fight climate change and create new ‘green’ jobs as well as a new type of sustainable economic growth in Europe. Last but not least: determination to reduce Europe’s fossil fuel import bill also drove the initiative. The Energy Union rests on the European Union's three key pillars: energy supplies need to be secure and reliable, competitively priced and sustainable.

As surprising as it might seem, Europe is already close to achieving these goals even with the current market design. Furthermore, the EU has already all necessary instruments to implement the key goals of the Energy Union. The completion of a single energy market will make the criteria of reliability, competitiveness and security of supply — mentioned as the key priorities of the Energy Union — less relevant, if not outdated, even with present energy regulations.

The single gas market increased competition and consumers in Europe have a vast of choice of alternative supplies — both in the form of LNG and pipeline gas — and they appear to feel comfortable with this choice. In a lunchtime press briefing on February 1, 2017 EU Commissioner Maros Sefcovic said that in regard to energy security, the situation has significantly improved in 22 out of 28 countries. This was due to to better pipeline links between member states, together with significant improvements of energy efficiency and increased use of renewables.

According to the report “LNG in Europe 2016/2017: An Overview of LNG Import Terminals in Europe” published in January 2017 by lawyers King & Spalding the total regasification capacity in the EU and Turkey (23 terminals in the EU-28 and 2 in Turkey) by the end of 2016 stood at 216bn m³, amounting to 40% of EU demand and 55-60% of EU gas imports. This capacity allows (in theory) the full replacement of pipeline imports from either Norway or Russia.

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