EU debates energy security strategy

The European Energy Security Strategy, drawn up by the EU as the crisis in Ukraine unfolded and debated by the European Parliament this week, may make mention of a need for more renewables but does so only alongside a call for more "sustainable" fossil fuels and "safe" nuclear.

The strategy was presented by the European Commission on May 28 and was debated by the parliament’s industry committee on Tuesday.

As one of the five solutions put forward as a long term answer to the political bloc’s overreliance on imported energy – and in the wake of the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, on Russia in particular – the strategy calls for more energy production.

The document says the EU must generate more energy from renewables, fossil fuels and nuclear as well as holding stronger negotiations with Russia, Norway and Saudi Arabia and with potential new suppliers in the Caspian Basin region, such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

The other suggested solutions include reducing energy consumption through measures including smart meters and clearer billing for consumers, and focusing on buildings, which consume 40% of the EU’s energy, and industry (25%)

The strategy calls for the completion of the EU’s internal energy market, by filling in infrastructure gaps as well as highlighting the need to protect critical infrastructure and energy emergency measures with stronger inter-state co-operation on storage facilities, developing reverse flows, carrying out risk assessments and securing supply lines at a regional and EU level.

One voice in energy supply deals

The long-term solution that will prove most contentious in anti-federal governments like the UK’s is a call for a unified voice in energy supply deals with external states. The proposal newly-elected EC president Jean-Claude Juncker be in on UK energy deals with external states at an early stage is unlikely to go down well at Westminster.

The short-term section of the new strategy involves staging energy security stress tests to simulate what would happen in the event of energy shortages this winter.

The emergency responses called for to deal with such a situation include increasing gas stocks; developing emergency infrastructure, such as reverse flows; reducing demand; and, tacked on the end, switching to alternative fuels – a crumb of comfort for the European renewables lobby.

The strategy states the EU imports 53% of its energy, including 90% of its crude oil; 66% of its natural gas; 42% of solid fuels, mainly coal; and 95% of its uranium, with the imported fuel bill for last year coming in at €400 billion ($538 billion).

Around a third of the EU’s oil comes from Russia, along with 39% of its gas and 26% of solid fuels as six member states rely entirely on Russia for gas at the same time as the Baltic states rely on one external source of most of their electricity supply.