IEA calls on EU for greater cooperation in shift to cleaner energy

In its latest review of European Union (EU) energy policies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has praised the progress made in liberalizing the energy markets and the EU’s leadership on climate change, but called for greater integration and cooperation if Europe is to enjoy a cleaner, more secure energy future.

In the report, Energy Policies of IEA Countries: European Union – 2014, the IEA reserved praise for the EU’s 20-20-20 targets, which have seen its member states pledge to reduce energy consumption by 20% by 2020. The EU’s lead on carbon reduction was also commended, but the IEA warned that the transition to a low-carbon system – with much of Europe still heavily reliant on fossil fuels across the transport and electricity sectors – will be a long challenge that requires greater cooperation.

A potential Energy Union across Europe would help tackle many of the challenges, the IEA said, adding that pan-continental agreement on reforming the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and better investment in clean energy like solar and wind would be transformative steps.

"As member states adopt different energy policy choices and decarbonization pathways towards 2030, a strong Energy Union is needed to achieve the EU 2030 goals," said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven. "But let’s be clear: such a union should not represent a buyer’s cartel. Rather, it should feature an integrated energy market and effective climate and energy policies."

van der Hoeven added that the EU must seek out ways to better pool its resources in order to deliver better energy security and competitiveness. Power systems across the continent need to accommodate the growing share of variable renewable energy, she said, particularly as the EU is scheduled to retire around 50% of its nuclear fleet over the next 10 years.

Further proposals outlined in the IEA report include an interconnected energy network and competitive retail market that will ensure market integration of solar and wind power; a timely adoption of market-based and governance rules for an integrated 2030 Climate and Energy Framework that will give priority to energy efficiency, and enhanced EU-wide cooperation on safety upgrades, extensions of the lifetimes of nuclear plants and a concerted effort to ensure the energy mix is stable and not dominated by one single source.