Conference on the role of renewables for EU’s energy security
organised by AEBIOM
22 SEPT 2014
KEYNOTE SPEECH BY MEP BENEDEK JÁVOR
Being personally committed to the energy transition issue, it’s a pleasure to join you at today’s conference. Europe’s energy policy has seen profound changes in the last decades, but it is currently facing a new situation with multiple challenges. Although energy mixes and choices around energy in member states may vary, we have three common and distinct policy objectives: limiting the environmental impact of energy production, transport and use, ensuring a reliable and uninterrupted supply of energy as well as making energy affordable for every citizen and fighting against energy poverty. In my speech I will focus on this threefold challenge that Europe’s energy policy needs to tackle and argue for a need to smartly reframe the renewables agenda by closely linking sustainability, energy security and social aspects.
First, lets have a closer look at the sustainability and climate change aspects of the energy policy agenda. I quote the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (AR5): “The world now has a rough deadline for action on climate change. Nations need to take aggressive action in the next 15 years to cut carbon emissions, in order to forestall the worst effects of global warming.”
This means that the world is (again) being warned of an ecological or climate tipping point by the UN. I say, it might be already late or we might delay too long in reacting to these risks and may see irreversible changes in all parts of the environmental system. Hence, its time for urgent action at all levels (from governments to individuals). We need substantial and sustained reductions of GHG emissions and other environmental impacts related to energy.
If we look at the level of ambition of the EU’s 2030 Climate and Energy Package as it stands, even if discussions are on-going on its details, it is clearly insufficient.
We need more. (Of course, we also have to look beyond Europe’s borders and prevent outsourcing carbon emissions and footprint to other parts of the world.)
However, this is only part of the overall picture. We all sense that energy security and is now higher and higher on the agenda, an issue that has clear linkages with renewables.
Yet, even if there is currently much political will around energy security, providing clear opportunities for you, renewables stakeholders, there are also some threats that I would like to point out.
In the 2030 Climate and Energy Package we have to thrive for much more (at least a 45% share for renewables) than the numbers currently discussed and I will only support a deal that has this ambition.
Beyond ambitious and binding goals at the European level we have to define specific targets at the level of member states, together with well designed, result-oriented and conditional support schemes.
Besides, energy security as a new buzzword and umbrella concept might provide an opportunity for the fossil fuel (e.g. shale gas) or nuclear lobby, which, if successful, can delay the genuinely sustainable energy transition alternatives in the EU. I personally am fully convinced that energy efficiency in combination with a nuclear free energy supply and a rapidly growing share of renewables is the direction we should move towards.
This would also make national and European energy systems less dependent on external sources, less vulnerable and more resilient in an energy crisis situation.
Furthermore, I warn decision makers not to throw out the baby with the bathwater and let go the achievements the EU has made in environment and climate-protection. Sustainability goals and new investments (physical and intellectual) in climate-friendly technologies using energy from various renewable sources need to remain an inherent part of future energy policy in the EU.
In some regions of the European Union (mainly in Eastern-Central Europe and the Mediterranean member states), the issues I have mentioned are accompanied by a third challenge, namely the extensive problem of energy poverty.
Hence, making energy affordable for each and every member of the European society and making sustainable technologies available for all are of utmost importance. (This is also valid at global scale – according to the International Energy Agency estimates provided in the World Energy Outlook, 1,8 billion people lack access to electricity and in some regions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia, energy poverty either stagnated or worsened as population growth outpaced energy access efforts.)
In Europe itself, it is estimated that 50-125 million EU citizens are affected by energy (or fuel) poverty meaning that these households are unable to heat their home or afford to use energy services at an adequate level. Many households are unable to escape energy poverty and are basically excluded from existing energy modernization programmes (e.g. insulation and improving heating efficiency of homes) due to their unfavourable financial situation.
In my view, at the European level, efforts should be concentrated on providing programs for low-income households to reach energy savings and to help them to get access to renewable energy investments. The latter would allow them to diversify their own energy sources and to build energy autonomy at household level.
We need programmes that do not require an own contribution from disadvantaged households, as savings that they will be able to achieve via energy modernization will cover their loan instalments. We also need low-cost micro projects targeted at the most vulnerable groups.
To sum up, I am convinced that the future European energy policy can only be successful if it integrates and provides solutions for all the above challenges.
Based on our geopolitical position, we, member states and stakeholders in Europe need to deepen our cooperation, aim at an energy transition along the lines of improved affordability, security and sustainability of our energy system.
Energy savings, efficiency and sustainable sources have to be fundamental elements of a renewed, common European energy policy. Here I stress the need for strong cooperation with the energy efficiency community. Supporting each others’ ambitions and exploiting synergies are crucial.
I also argue for a decentralized energy system which requires clearly different developments, investments and infrastructural priorities than a traditional energy network. We have to apply a participatory approach, as vast local use of renewables turns consumers to “prosumers”.
It’s essential to give regional answers for system regulation challenges in order to open up the possibility for higher shares of renewables in some Member States.
We also need to look beyond our borders. Creating linkages, better integration with our neighbors would be a chance of spreading renewables technology and know-how, in addition to helping the sustainable development of these regions.
In conclusion, we need to build on the momentum of the energy security efforts, and we definitely need to a more ambitious Climate and Energy Package that provides proper incentives, brings about behavior change and at the same time, provides benefits for the widest public. Mainstreaming sustainable technologies, new solutions should follow with a view to reducing disparities in the EU.
We should look far beyond progress in terms of infrastructures, systems, technologies and also aim for providing better services and beyond all, improving accessibility to these in the widest sense.
These are the preconditions for boosting investments in renewables.
As a member of the European Parliament I wanted demonstrate that in the EP we have forward looking ideas. As for the next steps (e.g. upcoming decision on energy policy priorities and short-term measures) the European Parliament wishes to play an active role and be as much involved as possible. Here I would like to mention that we are currently working on a European Energy Security Strategy where I act as shadow rapporteur and I aim for integrating the above thoughts and elements into this Strategy.
Nevertheless, I am here also to hear your opinion, your contributions and to gain new insights.
I wish ourselves a fruitful conference, a lively exchange of views. I hope we keep looking for new solutions together.
Carbonbrief.org – tipping elements
EEA Technical report No 5/2013 Achieving energy efficiency through behaviour change: what does it take?