The Second Report on the State of the Energy Union shows that the modernisation of the European Union economy and the transition to a low-carbon era is on course, according to the European Commission.

In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency and renewable energy, Europe is set to reach its 2020 targets, according to the report. To further drive this process, the Commission announced a new Energy Union tour on Wednesday.
But it wasn’t all positive, as problems with interconnection targets, energy import dependency and energy poverty were also identified.

This report looks at the progress made since the publication of the first State of the Energy Union in November 2015. These reports are central elements to monitor the implementation of this key priority of the Juncker Commission.  

Maroš Šefčovič, the Vice-President responsible for the Energy Union, said: “The Energy Union is about more than energy and climate alone; it is about accelerating the fundamental modernisation of Europe’s entire economy, making it low-carbon, energy and resource efficient, in a socially fair manner. We should also strengthen the Energy Union’s external dimension, to enhance the EU’s global leadership role. Now that a large part of the relevant legislative proposals are on the table, 2017 should be the year of implementation. This is the message that I will bring to Member States during the new Energy Union tour, which I will launch on 3 February”.

Meanwhile Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, said the EU was fulfilling its objectives despite current geopolitical uncertainties.

“There is no alternative. And the facts speak for themselves: renewable energy is now cost-competitive and sometimes cheaper than fossil fuels, employs over one million people in Europe, attracts more investments than many other sectors, and has reduced our fossil fuels imports bill by €16bn. Now, efforts will need to be sustained as Europe works with its partners to lead the global race to a more sustainable, competitive economy.”

Since the publication of the first State of the Energy Union, several trends in the EU’s transition to a low-carbon economy were continued and strengthened.
The EU has already achieved its 2020 final energy consumption target. The same is true for greenhouse gas emissions: in 2015, EU greenhouse gas emissions were 22 per cent below the 1990 level.

The bloc is also on track in the renewable sector where – based on 2014 data – the share of renewables reached 16 per cent of the EU’s gross final energy consumption.

Another important trend is that EU continues successfully decouple economic growth from its greenhouse gas emissions. During the 1990-2015 period, the EU’s combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 50  per cent, while total emissions decreased by 22 per cent.

In 2016, the Commission also presented a European low emission mobility strategy with a clear ambition: by mid-century, greenhouse gas emissions from transport should be at least 60 per cent lower than in 1990 and be firmly on the path towards zero, while ensuring the mobility needs of people and goods as well as global connectivity.

The report wasn’t entirely positive.

For 22 member states total net import dependency decreased between 2005 and 2014, but over the same period import dependency significantly increased in Denmark, Poland and the UK “due to the decline of indigenous fossil fuel production”.

Lithuania also became more dependent due to the closure of nuclear plants.

The report also found that 11 of the EU’s 28 member states have not yet reached the target of 10% of their energy production being connected to other member states. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and the UK are said to need “to continue their efforts” to improve interconnectivity. The commission believes connecting Europe’s electric power systems will allow the EU to boost its security of electricity supply and to integrate more renewable energy.

Energy poverty also remains an issue in many member states. On average, energy-related costs made up 8.6 per cent of low-income households’ expenditure in the EU. This share has increased for most EU countries since 2005.