Brussels, 30 May 2007
The European Union (EU) and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) held today in Brussels a joint Roundtable on Energy Policies.
The event was co-chaired by Mr Heinz Hilbrecht, Director of the EC’s Directorate for Conventional Energies, and Dr Hasan M. Qabazard, Director of OPEC Secretariat's Research Division. The Roundtable was part of the formal EU-OPEC Energy Dialogue, which was established in December 2004, to exchange views on energy issues of common interest, including oil market developments — and the potential this has for contributing to stability, transparency and predictability in the market.
Notable successes have already been achieved with the energy dialogue, in enhancing understanding between the two groups on key topical issues, as well as setting-up joint Roundtables, Workshops and Studies to gain deeper insights into such issues. The Roundtable on Energy Policies in Brussels was the latest of such actions.
The Roundtable included sessions on: the energy outlook over time-horizons to 2030; the EU’s energy, transport and climate policies; and OPEC’s capacity-expansion objectives and market-stabilisation measures.
It recognised the importance of the Millennium Development Goals and the fact that access by the poor to modern energy services facilitates the achievement of these goals.
Both parties welcomed the growing diversity in the energy mix, in both the EU and OPEC countries, including renewables and biofuels. The sustainability of biofuels was discussed, in particular the potential impacts of the large-scale trade and use of biomass for energy purposes, in terms of land-use changes, competition with food supply and other biomass uses, biodiversity, and competition for water resources. The scope to tackle these problems through an appropriate EU policy framework was also discussed.
Nevertheless, while both parties welcomed an enhanced diversification of the energy mix, they also noted that, under all reputable scenarios, the world would continue to rely on oil as its dominant source of energy, to foster economic growth and social progress. They also noted that, according to most reputable international institutions, there are enough conventional and non-conventional oil resources to meet demand.
Environmental protection, on both the local and global scales, was also a prominent topic of discussion. Both the EU and OPEC believe that cleaner fossil fuels technologies should be promoted. In particular, recalling the joint Roundtable on carbon capture and storage held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in September 2006, they underlined the need to make this technology commercially viable, it having a vital role to play in limiting greenhouse gas emissions. In the framework of their energy dialogue, both parties are exploring concrete means for enhancing cooperation in this field.
OPEC and some of its Member Countries made presentations about capacity expansion. In this connection, the risk of unneeded idle capacity stemming, inter alia, from the uncertainties over future levels of oil demand, was discussed.
It was noted that government policies related to the environment and the production of cleaner fuels, also had an impact on the downstream sector. A joint EU-OPEC study on investment needs in the refining sector and the role of the oil refining industry in oil markets is now in progress.
The parties concluded that continued dialogue and exchanges of views between the EU and OPEC constituted an important element in improving understanding among all parties and that this was in line with the mutual interests of supporting oil market stability and predictability, for the benefit of the world at large.
The next event under the EU-OPEC Energy Dialogue will be the 4th Ministerial Meeting in Vienna on 21 June 2007.