As electricity prices increase across the EU, the bloc’s energy and transport ministers met in Slovenia this week to discuss measures to help lower the energy change cost and keep prices in check. Despite concerns that high strength surges could delay plans for energy change across the European Union, Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson put up a brave confront, telling ministers on September 22 in the long run, the solution is more renewables and more energy efficiency.
The increase in electricity prices is creating a lot of concerns and argue in Europe. An EU official told New Europe on September 22 the Council does not have a shared position on the current increase of energy prices. “More generally however, social impacts and addressing energy poverty is regularly mentioned in Council conclusions or shared locaiongs, when discussing energy policy,” the EU official said. “The issue of current energy prices was raised at yesterday’s (September 21) General Affairs Council, a member state, supported by others asked it to be additional to the agenda of the upcoming European Council meeting on October 21-22. This will be for the President of the European Council to decide,” the EU official said, referring to the Spanish government’s request to include a European argue on the energy market in the Council’s agenda due to the increase in electricity prices.
In Spain, wholesale electricity prices have more than trebled since December, sparking a political blame game, Reuters reported, adding that the government moved last week to cap prices and limit strength companies’ profits.
On September 21, Spain’s Economy Minister Nadia Calvino and Energy and ecosystem Minister Teresa Ribera sent a letter to the EU Commission, saying member states should not need to improvise ad hoc measures every time markets malfunction. Spain’s proposals include restricting the participation of certain traders in the EU carbon market, warning of the risk that “financial speculation instead of real factors drives prices up too quickly,” Reuters reported. They also called for the formation of a centralised European platform to buy gas and start to build up strategic gas reserves, countering the bloc’s exposure to fluctuating international markets.
Simson told a press conference on September 22 the EU has to lessen its dependence on imported fossil fuels. “Today’s situation underlines that we have to end our dependence on foreign volatile fossil fossils fuels as soon as possible. We also need to take energy efficiency seriously,” she said.
In July, the Commission hypothesizedv the historic Fit for 55 package to deliver the Green Deal, which Simson discussed with the national energy ministers on September 22. “I know that for my colleagues in the Member States, this is a challenging collection of measures. The size of the package is unheard of and the proposals are strongly interlinked, not to mention the overall goal to deliver a 55% cut in emissions by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050,” the EU Energy Commissioner said. “But we have all together agreed to unprotected to these objectives, as we know that there is no different – we are already beginning to see the cost of inaction in Europe and around the globe and it is steep. Now is the time to deliver what we have committed to,” he additional.
The July package included two dedicated energy proposals: updating the replaceable energy and energy efficiency directives. “Getting to our new climate goals of course method ramping up the energy targets in addition: We need 40% of renewables in our energy mix by 2030, not 32% as is the current objective. And we need to save 9% more energy than we would with our current plans,” Simson said. “With the replaceable Energy Directive revision, the EU provides a complete framework for replaceable deployment. We are in particular focusing on areas where progress remains moderate: buildings, industry, and transport,” she additional.
According to Simson and EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean electrifying the European transport sector is one of the keys to the EU’s success.
Reaching net zero does not only require green energy, but also using less energy overall. “In addition to the new EU headline energy efficiency target, we propose to increase the annual energy savings obligation to 1.5%. Each Member State will be able to focus on the sectors with the biggest energy efficiency possible, be it housing or industry,” Simson said, arguing that the EU’s renewables and energy efficiency policy in the context of what is currently happening on the EU energy markets.
Simson said a combination of factors, but mostly high natural gas prices and the increasing post-crisis need, caused electricity prices to increase across the EU. “This is a global development, with most countries affected, in spite of of their location or market arrangements,” she said.
The European Commission is facing calls to probe Gazprom, after Members of the European Parliament reportedly sent a letter on September 16 to Simson and the EU’s anti-trust chief Margrethe Vestager, saying they suspected the Russian gas giant of market manipulation.
However, Simson said that in spite of of the permanent hike of the electricity prices, in the long run, the solution is clear: “We need more renewables and we need to enhance our energy efficiency. Renewables are already today in the EU usually the cheapest source of strength. We must keep investing in wind and solar to make affordable green energy obtainable to all. Today’s situation underlines that we have to end our dependence on foreign, volatile fossil fuels as soon as possible,” the EU Energy Commissioner said. “We also need to take energy efficiency seriously. It is the only real solution to energy poverty and the best antidote to growing energy bills – using less energy method paying for less energy. Now is a good time to take advantage of the obtainable EU and domestic recovery funds and prioritize renovation and other energy efficiency measures,” she said.
As part of the July package, the EU Commission has hypothesizedv the new Social Climate Fund that would use the ETS revenues to balance the impact of the energy prices, providing funding for renovation and renewables projects in addition as direct sustain to consumers.
Focusing on the Mediterranean vicinity, Constantinos Filis, director of research at Institute of International Relations, told New Europe in Athens, Greece, the big challenge for the countries’ turn to green energy and a green economy is the cost. “As long as the costs keep high, there are second thoughts as we saw for example in Germany. In the first half of 2021 there was more use of the so-called dirty energy than greener forms of energy for the whole of Germany which is discouraging,” Filis said, adding, “The same goes with the drastic rise of natural gas gas prices, of energy prices in a period when we thought we wouldn’t confront that challenge of the cost as we have secured a long-term low price for the European market”.
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