European energy sector is at a cross-road: on one side, energy consumption is increasing, with a simultaneous dependence on the external energy supplies; on another side, the EU long-term strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 needs additional constructive policy’s re-formulation at the EU and the states’ level. Definitely, measures towards clean energy transition and “green deal” provide for some solutions.
There are numerous challenges in the European in energy sector: e.g. the EU is reaching out to its major energy suppliers in order to satisfy boosting energy consumption and ensure that energy supply remains reliable, affordable and secure. Therefore, generally, modern situation has highlighted the need for the European states to diversify energy supplies, the issue which is becoming a strategic cooperation direction in energy security with the rest of the world. The “Global Methane Pledge” can serve as a good example, which was initiated by cooperative efforts in the EU and the US, putting the methane squarely on the global climate agenda with more than 100 countries already joining the project.
Then, there is another priority: reliable, affordable and secure energy can only come from a decarbonised energy mix based largely on renewables. Thus, clean energy transition is now becoming irreversible for the states, regardless of some political inclinations to slow down this priority (i.e. “postponing for another time”). In the situation of climate emergency, the states have to accelerate the transition, though the process requires just and socially inclusive approach based on new and innovative technologies.
As to the GHG emissions, the production and use of energy account for more than 75% of the total level of emissions; therefore, decarbonising the EU’s energy system is critical to reach the EUI’s ambitious long-term strategy of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
Problems and structural challenges
The world presently is far away of the objective of reaching 2 degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees; most states in the world still dependent on fossil fuels for more than three quarters of energy needs, e.g. about 600 million African people never seen an electric light bulb and they need more energy. Modern world, on one hand, has to increase the energy production to feed the needs of people and industries, on another – it has to take massive and urgent action to advance transition to clean and renewable energies.
As to the European Union, it is facing high energy prices, driven by volatile gas markets and by geo-political tensions; besides, present situation is also exposing some structural challenges to be addressed.
First, high price volatility shows that the energy transition is not a linear process: despite high prices, the states must preserve the public trust and support clean energy transition stipulated by the “green deal” as a key legislative initiative. The states’ governance has to show that clean energy technologies are competitive, creating new jobs and benefiting all territories and regions in a just transition. They have to work in the direction of scaling up markets for renewables, creating opportunities for business and industries (e.g. in offshore wind projects), and bringing down the costs of the most innovative and promising technologies, like green hydrogen or small modular reactors.
Second, European energy security: despite a decade’s long effort for diversification of gas routes, the EU gas market is still too dependent on one single supplier; the EU need to continue to prioritise diversification, both for the member states and for the European partners in the neighbourhood. In seeking to reduce the dependency on a single supplier, the EU turns to the US, the largest LNG supplier for Europe; the Joint Statement of President Biden and President Von der Leyen shows the way to sustain strong US LNG exports to Europe in the coming months.
Reference to: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/SPEECH_22_855.
However, the “gas issue” is not that simple, and the dependence on a so-called “single supplier” is still great among European states; here are some drastic dependence’s examples: Northern Macedonia -100%, Finland -94%, Bulgaria -77%, Slovakia- 70%, Germany -49%, Italy- 46%, Poland -40%, France -24%, etc.
At the same time, annual natural gas production (in %) during 2015-2021 (in terawat/hours) becomes really worrying: production –from 24 to 9; Russia’s share –from 36 to 38, Norway’s share –from 24 to 22, LNG –from 8 to 18, Algeria –from 5 to 8, Libya – from I to 0, and Azerbaijan’s share – from 0 to 2.
Clean energy transition and “green deal”
The EU “green deal” package (approved in July 2021) is aimed at GHG emissions reduction and enhancing citizens quality of life; it includes three main directions for clean energy transition: a) ensuring secure and affordable EU energy supply, b) developing a fully integrated, interconnected and digitalised EU energy market, and c) prioritising energy efficiency (by e.g. improving energy performance of the construction sector) and developing a European power sector based largely on renewable sources.
There are numerous objectives and means in achieving the “deal’s” success; the following actions and measures by the member states have to be implemented: – creating interconnected energy systems and better integrated grids to support renewable energy sources; – promoting innovative technologies and modern infrastructure; – boosting energy efficiency and products’ eco-design; – decarbonising gas sector and promoting smart integration across energy and economy sectors; – empowering consumers and helping citizens to tackle energy poverty; – exploring the EU energy standards in national economies, and – developing full potential of the Europe’s offshore wind energy.
More on green deal in: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal/delivering-european-green-deal_en.
To meet the EU’s energy and climate targets for 2030, EU countries have established their 10-year integrated national energy and climate plan (NECP) for the period 2021-2030. The national plans shall outline the member states’ ways to address five priority energy areas: energy efficiency, renewables, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, interconnections, as well as research and innovation.