Energy policies of Member States will have to be harmonised, even after the implementation of the EU’s Energy Strategy 2020; therefore the objectives should be identified until 2030, and then to 2050, stressed National Development Minister, Tamás Fellegi, during the informal meeting of EU Energy Ministers, held in Gödöllő, on 3 May 2011.
The meeting was focused on Energy Roadmap 2050, which aimed at the establishment of a low carbon energy system, and the EU’s external energy relations. Tamás Fellegi pointed out during the meeting that, “During the term of the Hungarian Presidency, discussions started on the documents, which could possibly determine the possible directions and the system needed in the energy policy for decades to come.” In addition to Commissioner Günther Oettinger attendance, the meeting was also joined by CEO of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Nobuo Tanaka, and representatives of several non-EU Member States of Europe.
Energy efficiency and competitiveness
Acting as chair of the meeting, Mr Fellegi said that the 85-90 per sent carbon emission reduction included in the Energy Roadmap (compared to 1990), is an extremely ambitious aim, “By which we can accomplish energy security, sustainability and competitiveness.” Mr Fellegi highlighted that the efficiency of energy consumption, also plays a key role in meeting the emission targets. The exploitation of renewable energy sources requires new technological solutions in the EU, he said. The minister added: it is important that the principle of solidarity should also be applied, so the EU should consider the different economic and geographical characteristics and capabilities, when defining the Roadmap 2050 for Member States.
Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger, said during the meeting that, first, the medium-term strategies should be defined thoroughly, “I find the question of what will be the situation in 2030 more exciting, we should identify exactly what the intentions are for this period.” The Commissioner added, “In the definition of the strategies, we must consider aspects such as energy efficiency, the application of renewable energy sources, and energy storage.” According to the Commission, technologies related to carbon dioxide capture and storage should be treated as a priority, “The question is, whether we can accomplish a breakthrough in that.” According to Mr Oettinger, we need to make important decisions concerning the future’s utilisation of nuclear energy as well.
The significance of renewable energy sources
Ministers of Member States also emphasised the importance of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar energy and tide. The ministers also mentioned that the carbon emission reduction to be accomplished in the field of electricity generation must not jeopardise energy supply; and that affordable energy should be guaranteed for all households in the future too.
Several Member States highlighted that the switch to using more modern energy sources does not come free, therefore, higher energy prices are unavoidable; but even considering that, consumers should be encouraged to switch. Certain contributors believed that part of the community of consumers should receive price discounts for the switch. It was also said that there is no single solution, which would be equally appropriate for each Member State. Several countries indicated that they would like to cover part of their energy needs from nuclear energy, or natural gas in the long run too.
Focusing on efficiency
Member States’ representatives agreed that very important energy investments and new technologies are required, so research and development will also be assigned a key role in the Energy Roadmap. Member States also emphasised upon the importance of developing a single energy market, which could guarantee the security of supply in the long term. It was unanimously accepted that energy efficiency should be realised in all fields, not only in energy production. Several speakers urged the use of “clean energy” in transport.
Günther Oettinger and several Member States’ representatives emphasised that the Roadmap 2050 should be “flexible”, so that it matches technical development, which is not yet visible at this point.
Social and budgetary dimensions
In the second half of the meeting, the Energy Commissioner pointed out the social and budgetary dimensions of the Roadmap 2050. He believed that if Member States take energy efficiency seriously, they will have to modify their national budgets as well. Primarily, Mr Oettinger underlined the efficiency of public and private buildings. “The question here, is whether our generation is ready to spend more money on energy efficiency.”
Creating a carbon-free Europe
“The goal is to reduce carbon-based energy consumption and today we discussed the conditions of this,” said Gunther Oettinger, in his summary of the meeting at the subsequent press conference. “The issue of Europe’s energy goes beyond the borders of the 27 Member States: energy is our common matter,” the Commissioner added. He said the results of the meeting in Gödöllő will be utilised at the next formal Energy Council, in June, which will aim to make concrete and constructive proposals.
As was said by Tamás Fellegi, at the press conference, Member States consider consumers being informed about the extent and impact of energy consumption, especially important. We have to shape consumer attitudes, the Development Minister added. The meeting also covered the energy mix, “Although there is a clear ambition to make common policies where possible, the energy mix will still remain a national competence,” Mr Fellegi said.
Nuclear safety as a common interest
Although the meeting did not touch on nuclear safety, in response to a journalist’s question, Günther Oettinger expressed hope that the common criteria for stress tests will be developed by next week. He also hoped that, “Companies, Member States and also the EU will accept these regulators; and stress tests will be carried out in the EU’s 143 nuclear plants.”
Tamás Fellegi added, commenting on the pan-European responsibility, “The undisturbed sleep of each European citizen matters to us, which is why publicity and the creation of common conditions are essential.”