Perspective EU’s energy transition: plans and realities

To achieve energy targets and the continent’s climate neutrality strategy by 2050, the EU adopted its first energy transition plan which defines actions aimed at ensuring the delivery on the net-zero ambition. During last decade several EU-wide measures were introduced to make the states’ energy strategies competitive, secure and sustainable in a fast-changing global situation. 

The Union’s energy security is inseparable from an EU-wide sustainable and low-carbon economy with reduced imported fossil fuels. This strategy has been an integral part of the 2030 policy framework in the EU climate and energy plan; e.g. in 2014 about half of states’ electricity was produced without pollution – with 23% from renewables and 27% nuclear. The strategy has been also consistent with the EU competitiveness and industrial policy objectives in line with the Commission’s idea of “European Industrial Renaissance” (COM-2014- 014).
It is important that the EU states were collectively prepared to implement long-term plans for competitive, secure and sustainable energy in a fast-changing environment which required flexibility, capacity to adapt and change. In order to meet the EU’s new energy and climate targets for 2030, the EU member states were required to establish 10-year national energy-climate plans for up to 2030.
Reference to: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:52014DC0330&qid=1407855611566

Energy transition: past and present
A specific strategy for a European energy union was published in February 2015 as a key priority of the then Commission College (2014-2019). Creating the “energy union” was aimed at providing the EU states’ consumers, households and businesses, etc. with secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy.
Since 2015, the European Commission has published several packages of measures and regular progress reports, which monitor the implementation of key priorities and to ensure that the energy union strategy is achievable.
More in: https://energy.ec.europa.eu/topics/energy-strategy/energy-union_en

Note. Key figures on the EU energy security in 2014: the EU imports 53% of the energy it consumes. It includes crude oil (almost 90%), natural gas (66%), solid fuels (42%) as well as nuclear fuel (40%). Energy security of supply concerns all EU states (some are more vulnerable than others), particularly less integrated regions such as the Baltic and Eastern Europe. Most pressing energy security issue is the strong dependence from a single external supplier in gas and electricity: six EU states depend from Russia as single external supplier for their entire gas imports and three of them use natural gas for more than a quarter of their total energy needs. In 2013 energy supplies from Russia accounted for 39% of EU natural gas imports and 27% of gas consumption; Russia exported 71 % of its gas to Europe with the largest volumes to Germany and Italy. As to electricity, three EU states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) are dependent on Russian external operator in their electricity networks.
The EU external energy expenses reached in 2014 more than €1 billion per day (around €400 billion a year) which is more than a fifth of total EU imports; e.g. the EU imports more than €300 billion of crude oil products a year and one third comes from Russia. Energy demand in the world is growing too; it is expected to increase by about a third by 2030.  See: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en

During May-October 2014, the Commission and the member states in the European Council reached an agreement on the strategic issues in energy policy which would serve as a building block for the perspective European energy union strategy.
See more in Communication on “Energy Security Strategy” (COM/2014/330) in: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:52014DC0330&qid=1407855611566

At the end of 2014, the EU adopted 2030-framework for climate and energy strategy, which included the EU-wide targets and policy objectives for 2020-30, based on an initial Commission communication on a policy framework for climate and energy from January 2014.
The EU-2020 energy strategy aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20%, increase the share of renewable energy to at least 20% of consumption, and achieve energy savings by at least 20%; besides all EU countries must also achieve a 10% share of renewable energy in their transport sector. Thus, the Energy-2020 strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy sets targets to help the states combating climate change and air pollution; the strategy also helps the states to decrease their dependence on imported fossil fuels while keeping energy affordable for consumers and businesses.

Then, a follow-up, i.e. the EU-2050 energy roadmap sets out a long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95%, when compared to 1990 levels, by 2050. The Energy Roadmap 2050 explores the energy system transition in ways compatible with this greenhouse gas reduction targets while increasing competitiveness and security of supply. The 2050-roadmap was adopted by the Council in May 2011 and endorsed by the European Parliament in its resolution in March 2012.
To achieve these goals, significant investments need to be made in new low-carbon technologies, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and grid infrastructure; as soon as that type long-term investments to promote stable business strategies for a period of about 20-60 years, such investment policies must be taken beforehand.
Thus, the 2050-roadmap sets out four main routes (with seven additional scenarios) towards more sustainable, competitive and secure energy system by 2050: energy efficiency, renewable and nuclear energy, and carbon capture and storage. It combined these routes in different ways to create and analyse seven possible scenarios for 2050.
Another vital initiative –the EU green deal (2019) additionally revised the Union’s climate, energy and transport-related legislation under the so-called ‘Fit for 55 package’ in order to align present laws with the EU’s climate goals for 2030 and 2050. The package includes, among other things: – revision of the EU emissions trading system (ETS), – efforts sharing regulation, – renewable energy and energy efficiency directives, – land use and forestry regulation, and – CO2 emissions of cars and vans regulation.
More on these issues in: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/climate-change/eu-climate-action/

Recent initiatives…
The EU “external energy engagement in a changing world” was presented in May 2022 as part of the REPowerEU Plan; it explains how the EU would support a global, clean and just energy transition to ensure sustainable, secure and affordable energy.
The “external strategy” is aimed at: – reducing the EU overall energy demand and ensuring fair competition for resources; – boosting energy savings, energy efficiency and the development of renewables; – supporting Ukraine’s recovery program; – preparing for further EU energy market integration; – repairing energy infrastructures, and – paving the way for a future green hydrogen partnership.
The sixth state of the EU energy union report was published in October 2021. It included an annex on energy subsidies in the EU-27, as well as detailed progress reports on: – competitiveness of clean energy technologies, – on fuel quality, – on the functioning of the carbon market, and – on climate action progress in the states.
More in: https://energy.ec.europa.eu/topics/energy-strategy/energy-union/sixth-report-state-energy-union_en.
The 6th Report was the first “energy union report” since the adoption of the European climate law in June 2021and the second since the adoption of the European “green deal” published in July 2021.

Note: on climate law in: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32021R1119; and on Green deal in: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en
And the Repower EU plan (May 2022) in: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal/repowereu-affordable-secure-and-sustainable-energy-europe_en

In early April 2022, the EU “energy platform” was established to secure the EU’s energy supply in the current geopolitical context and to phase out dependency on Russian gas. It is a voluntary coordination mechanism, supporting the EU’s purchase of gas and hydrogen. The EU will also keep working with other international bodies to ensure well-functioning global energy markets.
Reference to: https://energy.ec.europa.eu/topics/energy-strategy/strategy-eu-external-energy-engagement_en

Financing energy transition: taxonomy
So-called “taxonomy issues” have appeared during 2021-22, i.e. at a time of rapid change in the EU energy market: when energy cost and security of supply pressures were high in national governance, in energy providers, citizens and businesses. Energy system transition and decisions required additional tools, financing sources and consideration of additional social objectives; it all had to be determined by specific financial and political-economy’s mechanisms. In plain words, taxonomy is regarded as a “classification for green and sustainable activities” through appropriate energy-related investment decisions.
More in: https://reclaimfinance.org/site/en/2022/02/02/the-eu-taxonomy-becomes-the-new-standard-for-greenwashing/

The EU’s “green taxonomy” is supposed to define what constitutes a sustainable investment for decades to come. But the inclusion of gas as a “sustainable” energy source means that in reality, the taxonomy is an endorsement of investment in fossil fuels. To endorse gas as a sustainable fuel is to continue external supplies: it is time to plan properly for the EU-wide future free from fossil fuels and may be time for re-evaluating taxonomy’s positive sides.
More in: https://nogasintaxonomy.eu/?msg_pos=2&utm_source=POLITICO.

Lack of political will and expeditiousness continue to hamper the successful implementation of environmental promises, undermining the ambition of the Green Deal. Quite often, environmental defenders exercise their universal right to protect a clean, healthy and sustainable environment: e.g. a special reporter on environmental defenders was appointed at the third extraordinary session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention in Geneva. Clean and just energy transition without nuclear and gas is a EU-wide political and an ecological necessity. Thus, a veto to inclusion of nuclear and gas into the EU taxonomy and phasing out fossil fuel for heating could help EU states removing one of the largest hurdles to commitments made under the Paris Agreement.
More on taxonomy in: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/business_economy_euro/banking_and_finance/documents/220121-sustainable-finance-platform-response-taxonomy-complementary-delegated-act_en.pdf

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