Why we need an Energy Union

Why we need an Energy Union

Miguel Arias Canete, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy gives an overview of why an Energy Union is integral to the EU…

Divide et impera. Divide and rule. As simple as it may sound, this maxim summarises the key strategic approach of the most eminent leaders and statesmen throughout history. The idea that lies behind this approach is that single nations have weaker bargaining and negotiating power than nations that coordinate and work together. That is exactly what happened during the last energy crisis in Europe. If we are to have a better position to negotiate energy deals in the international market, we need to decrease our dependence from external suppliers and increase our interdependence as European allies. Now is the moment to do it, the moment to achieve the Energy Union.

In order to build it, we have to work on 3 different ideas. Firstly, we have to deal with the challenge of Energy Security. Gas sales, as we have seen lately, are not treated as mere commercial matters, and some suppliers use them as weapons for political leverage. If we want to put an end to the politicisation of commerce and to stop jeopardising the supply for our companies and the wellbeing of our citizens, we need to diversify the sources of our imports. We should strengthen our ties with firm and trusted friends like Norway or Ukraine, but also undertake new commercial relationships with countries like Turkey or Algeria.

Secondly, we have to develop a truly integrated Internal Energy Market. The EU was founded on 4 basic freedoms: the freedom of goods, services, capital and people to move freely across the Union’s internal borders. Why should energy be excluded from these freedoms? If highways do not end at national borders I cannot think of a reason why electricity cables should. If we achieve a unified market with interconnected grids, the energy companies would be more competitive and citizens would enjoy more affordable prices, saving up to €40bn a year.

Thirdly, we have to improve the efficiency of our energy. The EU is already a world leader in energy efficiency, but I think that we can do much more. Now that we have proven that economic growth and energy consumption are decoupled, we should step up our initiatives in this direction. At the consumer level, for example, our approach for improving the energy efficiency of buildings has resulted certainly successful, and new dwellings now consume 40% less than dwellings built 20 years ago. Along the same lines, at the industrial level we have developed equally successful actions and the energy intensity of our industries has improved by 19%. We have to understand that energy efficiency is one of the most cost effective means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, something particularly positive after the EU has publicly stated its commitment to achieve a 40% reduction by 2030. Without a doubt, a win-win way to fight climate change.

The Energy Union is an ambitious project that will change the face of energy in Europe. Today we have the opportunity to make our energy more affordable, more competitive, more secure and more respectful with the environment, and we cannot miss it. It is the time to take a stand against the strategy of divide and rule and to adopt a new strategy, the strategy of unite and win.

Miguel Arias Cañete
Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy
European Commission


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