Setting the scene: The European Parliament’s debate on energy security


Publication date

May 19, 2015

At the end of 2014, the European Parliament published a report on the European Energy Security Strategy focusing on diversifying import routes for fossil fuels. It however seemed to miss out the importance of reducing energy demand and accelerating the deployment of local renewable energy sources. Instead it focuses on unconventional hydrocarbon and nuclear energy. The report was adopted by the ITRE committee (in charge of energy issues in the European Parliament) on 11 May. Fortunately it was significantly amended in a more positive direction.

The report still includes many references to outdated, centralised modes of energy production (such as endigenous fossil fuels and nuclear energy). Besides, some adopted amendments increase the focus on carbon capture and storage – potentially diverting funding in R&D and investment away from energy efficiency and renewable energy sources – and fail to properly acknowledge the role of local authorities. However, it now offers a more positive framework regarding the role of energy efficiency and renewable energy policies in improving energy security.

Energy efficiency is now considered a key priority, being listed in the report as an energy source in its own right. Another positive evolution is the call for decentralisation of the energy system as a key component of Europe’s energy security. Moreover, the text adopted by the European Parliament puts forward the role of multilevel governance in a secure supply of energy. The European Parliament also deplores the lack of ambition of the 2030 climate and energy framework adopted by the European Council in 2014, and calls for binding national targets and more ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy targets.

Energy security has been receiving a lot of attention in Brussels lately. EU regions such as the Baltic or Poland, which entirely rely on Russia for their natural gas supply, pose the need for a coherent strategy to “keep the lights on” at all time for EU citizens.

Energy security is notably a core component of the ambitious project of creating an “Energy Union”. This key policy of the Juncker Commission was first proposed by the current President of the European Council as a way to reduce the vulnerability of Europe’s energy system to external supply shock and to increase Europe’s bargaining power as a gas-importing region. However, the debate around the Energy Union– and more generally energy policy at European level – is now structured around the tenants of the latter’s vison, and those who see such an ambitious policy as a way to completely reshape Europe’s energy system to achieve the energy transition (see Energy Cities’ position on the Energy Union).

This debate on energy security at the European Parliament intervenes in the greater context of the creation of an Energy Union. The Energy Security Strategy shows how the debate is structured, and which changes we can prepare for. It is of crucial importance as the text setting the Energy Union will soon be presented to the MEPs. This is where and when local authorities in energy transition must weight in to ensure energy efficiency, renewable energy production and decentralisation are included in the text.

© photo Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0