On 16th February 2016 the European Commission presented its Energy Security Package, outlining four new proposals for Gas Supply, Intergovernmental Agreements (IGA), Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Heating and Cooling, all key elements of President Junker’s Energy Union Strategy.
Addressing the details of the Energy Security Package, the Vice-President responsible for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič, said:
“The Energy Union Strategy, launched one year ago, promised to provide all Europeans with energy which is secure, sustainable, and competitive. Today’s package focuses on the security of our supply, but touches upon all three overarching goals. By reducing our energy demand, and better managing our supply from external sources we are delivering on our promise and enhancing the stability of Europe’s energy market.”
The EU imports 53% of its overall consumed energy, with varying levels of dependence on third country sources by Member States. The package aims to protect European consumers from fragile and volatile global markets. The Security of Gas Supply Regulation and the LNG and Storage Strategy make up half of the proposed Energy Security Package; these measures focus on the diversification of energy sources by exploring new regions of supply and developing European infrastructure to address the EU’s move away from a patchwork system of national networks towards a more connected regional model, similar to the already complete LitPol electricity link between Lithuania and Poland.
The Commission notes that natural gas remains an important part of the EU’s energy mix and it must also be a factor in the transition from our current carbon reliant situation towards a low-carbon economy. The Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, attempted to ease concerns regarding the nature of the package saying at the 16th February press conference:
“I can assure that our commitment to a clean energy transition is irreversible and non-negotiable.”
However, the focus on nonrenewable sources of energy has not gone unnoticed. Greens/EFA MEP Claude Turmes is quoted as saying:
“The Commission has here completely ignored the Paris Agreement (COP 21). Commissioner Cañete had announced that the EU’s climate and energy policy would be modified to fit the ambitious goals agreed at the climate negotiations, but there’s no trace of that in today’s proposals. Instead the Commission continues to cling to the outdated fossil fuel model of energy supply rather than adopting a forward-looking energy policy that would ensure both energy security and climate protection.”
Further to the above proposals and in light of findings by the Commission that a third of the 124 IGAs signed by Member States contain provisions that mean they do not comply with EU law, the Commission is proposing changes to the way in which an IGA is signed and agreed upon. Through the introduction of a new mandatory assessment system, the Commission will provide a Member State with information on any doubts in compatibility with EU law. This will be done within a 12-week period after a Member State’s initial submission; the Commission will expect the Member State to take its opinion into account before signing the proposed IGA.
Finally, the heating and cooling sector, which sources 75% of its energy from non-renewable means, is seen as a “main driver” towards the EU meeting its climate and energy goals. Through reexisting programmes such as the European Structural & Investment Funds and the new Smart Finance for Smart Buildings initiative, the Commission hopes its Heating and Cooling Strategy will address the problem that 90% of buildings in the European housing sector currently face regarding energy inefficiency. The Commission says the Heating and Cooling Strategy will focus on “Removing the barriers to decarbonisation in building and industry.”