The Energy Union is a European priority project, identified by the Juncker Commission as one of the 10 political priorities, in which five dimensions are closely interconnected: energy security, solidarity and trust; a fully integrated European energy market; energy efficiency contributing to moderation of demand; decarbonising of the economy; and research, innovation and competitiveness.
Progress has been made on all these dimensions. The Energy Union is part of the positive agenda for the European Union as set out in the Bratislava Declaration , and cannot be separated from other key European policies.
It contributes to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the implementation of the Circular Economy agenda , and relies on close interaction with the Capitals Market Union, the Digital Single Market, the New Skills Agenda for Europe, the Investment Plan for Europe and the Security Union.
The Energy Union is about more than energy and climate:: it is about accelerating the modernisation of Europe’s entire economy, making it low carbon and efficient in energy and resources, in a socially fair manner.
Its ultimate goal is to make sure that Europe’s consumers, workers and businesses benefit from it. European companies should be at the forefront of the necessary investments, since this would create an early mover advantage for new technologies and business models.
There is, in other words, a strong business case for the transition to a more modern, low carbon economy. This also requires a strong external dimension, I.e. With energy suppliers. In a fast-changing geopolitical environment, a successful Energy Union is crucial to protect the long term economic interests and well-being of Europe and its citizens. Work on the internal agenda has therefore been complemented by a reinforced energy diplomacy, designed to strengthen security of energy supply, to expand exports of European low carbon technology solutions and boost industrial competitiveness.
More generally, energy diplomacy should increase Europe’s room-of-manoeuvre, together with its international partners, in a more volatile world. This is the area where Europe has solid potential to show global leadership.
A small number of Member States are already advancing on the preparation of their integrated National Energy and Climate Plan for the period 2021 to 2030, which should include the national contributions to the Energy Union objectives and the 2030 targets for energy and climate. However, most Member States still need to start this process or to move ahead more quickly.
Whereas the strategical commitment and diplomacy are pursued at central level, modernization and decarbonisation should be a local issue. Indeed, Cities and rural areas are crucial for the modernisation and decarbonisation of the European economy. Urban areas are a major source of greenhouse gases, with urban energy consumption generating about three quarters of global carbon emissions. Cities and rural areas are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts. At the same time, rural areas, as suppliers of renewable resources for the bioeconomy, and cities, as centres of innovation and growth and engines of economic development, are also – and increasingly so – part of the solution. Cities are responsible for a quarter of all public expenditure and almost half of public investment. They produce 68% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the European Union with 62% of the jobs, are key players in the effort to decouple greenhouse gas emissions and resource consumption from economic growth and help national economies become more knowledge-based and competitive. This is where the modernisation of Europe’s economy starts. The adoption of the Pact of Amsterdam establishing the Urban Agenda for the European Union, the European Summit of Regions and Cities in Bratislava and the launch of the one stop-shop for cities gave a strong boost to city action. The Urban Agenda is implemented through partnerships on a wide range of areas with a direct impact on Europe’s economy. They involve the Commission, Member States, cities and relevant stakeholders. Across the European Union, city-based projects are being launched, looking for synergies between areas such as energy, mobility, digital, water, air and waste management and the circular economy. Successful projects such as the ones for smart cities produce savings for citizens and industry, improve air quality and create local jobs.
Barriers, then, are both at national and local level and the European Union should take into account local needs to boost a concrete Energy Revolution. Again, subsidiarity is the key word.