Draft proposals for a special EU energy summit to be held in Brussels on 4 February include calls for the region’s internal energy market to be completed by 2014, together with greater efforts to achieve a 20 per cent increase in energy efficiency by 2020.
According to EUobserver, European leaders will also ask EU high representative Catherine Ashton to take full account of the bloc’s energy security as she travels the globe, cultivating the union’s ‘strategic partnerships’.
Both European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, the chair of next Friday’s meeting, and the Hungarian EU presidency have indicated their desire to tackle Europe’s energy shortcomings and prevent a repeat of previous crises.
A dispute between Russia and the Ukraine in January 2009 left many homes in eastern Europe without heating in the middle of a cold-snap. This over-reliance on Russian gas, together with private sector resistance to greater market liberalization and the EU’s creaking energy infrastructure are among the factors that worry officials.
“No EU member state should remain an energy island after 2015 or see its energy security jeopardized by lack of the appropriate connections,” say the draft conclusions published on 25 January, still subject to change.
A recent communication from the European Commission suggested priority infrastructure projects for a single European energy grid should be fast-tracked, sidestepping the standard authorization procedures in member states. Concrete legislative proposals on this issue are set to follow.
Analysts increasingly pinpoint greater energy efficiency as key to driving European competitiveness and protecting the environment, but member states are currently lagging behind an EU goal to improve energy efficiency by 20 per cent over the next decade.
NGOs and MEPs believe this could be rectified by making the target legally binding, similar to EU goals on reducing CO2 emissions and increasing the use of renewables.
While European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has made remarks suggesting he favours binding targets for energy efficiency, a number of member states and the EU’s energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger are thought to oppose the move.
“[Member states] will review the implementation of the EU energy efficiency target by 2013 and consider further measures if necessary,” leaders say in the draft conclusions
EU leaders are also set to discuss the bloc’s external action in the energy field when they meet next week, with member state priorities currently varying from country to country.
While Germany is pushing ahead with the development of the Nord Stream gas pipeline that will link Europe with Russia via the Baltic, Italy is among those championing the South Stream project, a pipeline that will link the EU with Russia via the Black Sea.
The commission, for its part, has thrown its weight behind the Nabucco project, a planned pipeline to connect Europe with Caspian gas supplies and decrease the bloc’s reliance on Russia. “There is a need for better co-ordination of EU and member states’ activities,” EU leaders are set to concede.
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