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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Speech by EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete: "Europe's energy security challenges: ''La Unión hace la fuerza'" at the Atlantic Council, Washington D.C./USA

Washington, 04 February 2015

Thank you for inviting me today to talk about European energy security and our trans-Atlantic co-operation.

Before I start, I must congratulate Ambassador Morningstar. It was his idea back in 2009 to start the EU-US Ministerial Energy Council. His initiative reinvigorated the energy dialogue between us.

I attended my first meeting of the EU-US Energy Council last December. Right away I appreciated the level of close co-operation and dialogue on energy issues. I have no doubt I would not be addressing you today were it not for Ambassador Morningstar.

So I offer my thanks and admiration for all he has done to strengthen transatlantic energy ties.


Ladies and gentleman,

In Spanish, we have a saying ''La Unión hace la fuerza".

It means in unity, there is strength.

To me, this idea should underpin everything we do on energy security. My speech today will explain why.

I am going to start with a few reflections on the challenge we face in the EU today. Then I will set out how we are going to respond to them domestically. And finally I will talk about the role of trans-Atlantic co-operation, and what else I think we can do together.

 

THE CHALLENGE IN THE EU

First: the challenge.

A reliable flow of energy is vital for our modern economies and societies. Energy is the engine of our growth, the fuel of our economy, and bedrock of our industry. This is why it is crucial that we have competitive, secure and sustainable supplies.

Today, the global energy map is being redrawn. Global energy demand will increase by over one third by 2040[1]. Much of the growth will come from emerging economies, with China and India alone accounting for half. The European Union meanwhile will decrease our share of global energy demand - from 12% today, to 8% by 2040.

But while the overall importance of the EU on global energy markets will decline, global energy markets will be increasingly important for the EU. Why? Largely because of the decline in our domestic production of fossil fuels. We will offset this decline with growth of domestic renewable energies and through energy efficiency measures. I can say with this confidence, because we already have clear binding targets for the year 2030:

  • a 40% reduction in Green House Gas emissions;
  • a 27% improvement in energy efficiency;
  • and 27% of renewable energy in our energy mix.

But this will not make us energy independent overnight. Europe's oil dependence is double what the US's was just before the 1979 oil crisis. For gas, we import a third of what we use from Russia. And the current crisis in Ukraine has shown just how vulnerable this this dependence makes us.

And yet we have been here before.

In 2006 and 2009, events in the east left many European citizens without gas.

Anyone can see a pattern here, and can also see a clear lesson:

When it comes to energy, don't put your fate in the hand of autocratic regimes.

Yet through great crisis can come great opportunity. Europe has seized this opportunity. I would like to discuss now what we are doing to improve our energy security.

 

EUROPE'S RESPONSE

In the aftermath of Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, European leaders adopted a European Energy Security Strategy. This set out a number of measures to improve Europe's security. However, we quickly saw that we needed a more decisive and ambitious approach. So in June 2014 Europeans agreed to create an Energy Union.

Why?

'La Unión hace la fuerza'. To be secure, we must first be united.

At the end of this month the European Commission will present the details of the Energy Union. It will be based on five closely related dimensions:

  • Firstly, supply security. We will double our efforts to diversify energy suppliers, sources and routes. The recent South Stream saga can be both a lesson and an opportunity. From now on, we will focus on projects that expand our diversity of supply. The Southern Corridor project will be a top priority.
  • Secondly, a competitive and completed EU-wide internal energy market. We plan to speed up the building of cables that unite the market physically, and codes that connect it technically. This will make our market a haven for friendly investors; and a hazard for monopolistic bullies.
  • Thirdly, reducing energy demand. The cheapest and most secure energy is the energy you do not use. For every 1% improvement in energy efficiency, EU gas imports fall by 2.6%. We are coming forward with new measures to drive efficiency and increase private sector funding.
  • Fourthly, the decarbonisation of the energy mix. The more we rely on domestic low-carbon energy, the less we import. In my native Spain, renewables have reached 50% of all installed power capacity. We want to go further both for the climate, and for security.
  • And finally, research and innovation. Our focus is promoting the technologies that will drive not just Europe's energy transition, but the world's. This means renewables, smart grids, smart homes, electro-mobility, CCS, storage and safe nuclear.

Together, these measures will make a stronger, unified Europe, ready to stand tall against those who use energy as a political weapon. But true strength is never acting alone, but acting alongside friends.

And in the field of energy, the EU has no greater friend than the US. I would like to turn finally to the topic of our cooperation.

 

EU-US COOPERATION

Today, we stand together on climate;

We stand together on new technologies and standards;

And we stand together for Ukraine…

Our strength is our unity. 'La Union hace la fuerza'.

On climate, I have met this week with my friend Tod Stern. We share many ideas on how to reach a global deal in Paris in December. A legally-binding climate deal would be the greatest single act for sending long-term clarity to the markets. And we will only get there if the US and EU are on the same page.

On new technologies we are working together on nuclear fusion, on smart grids, on hydrogen fuel cells on electric vehicles and in many other fields. To take one example, the Argonne National Laboratory and the European Commission Joint Research Centre are running a joint program on e-vehicles and smart grids

Andwe are also working to co-ordinate policies and set compatible standards and incentives. This will help promote the market uptake of these technologies.

And finally on Ukraine. Our cooperation here has been immense. From reform measures in Ukraine, to sanctions against Russia. From reverse gas flow from Slovakia to Ukraine, to integration of South East Europe in the EU's energy market. All have been driven by EU-US cooperation.

Together then, we already have achieved so much, but we could still achieve so much more.

The best way to do this is through our trans-Atlantic market - the world's largest trade and investment zone.

Total US investment in the EU is three times higher than in all of Asia. EU investment in the US is eight times that of our investment in India and China combined.

Energy needs to be a key part of Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership discussions. Our trans-Atlantic energy approach needs to be embedded in this new agreement, we need detailed provisions and promote common standards for the energy sector, and we need gas to be traded freely across the Atlantic.

And we should not stop with TTIP. We should promote our approach globally, particularly in countries where the state plays an excessive role in the energy sector. The goal is stronger set of rules for the energy sector in the entire multilateral trade system.

To sum up, Europe faces a time of severe energy security challenges. But I am optimistic. I know we can build a more secure and stable future.

The foundation will be a new energy union for Europe. And the very first block will be a stronger transatlantic partnership.

I hope I can count on your support to cement that partnership, and take it to the next level.

It has been a pleasure for me to address such a distinguished audience here today. Thank you for your attention.


[1] IEA World Energy Outlook 2014, page 64. World energy demand is forecast to increase from 13,361 Mtoe in 2012 to 18,293 Mtoe in 2040.

SPEECH/15/4086

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