Looking at the European Union’s short term geopolitical and energy situation, Russia will remain a key energy supplier for the EU, Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said on April 12, adding that it’s important to ensure that Russian energy supplies into Europe are subject to competitive pressures from the existence of other suppliers able to compete anywhere across the EU’s market.
“This will ensure that the continued role of Russia as one of our main energy providers does not come at the expense of our energy security and resilience, nor does it lead to excessive prices,” Cañete said at the annual EU Energy Summit where he joined Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek and Bulgaria’s Deputy Energy Minister Zhecho Stankov.
Looking in more detail at this energy import dependency, it is clear that the main challenge for the EU is in the natural gas sector since both the oil and coal markets are global, with multiple suppliers and flexible, multiple options for transportation.
In 2016, some 76% of the EU’s extra gas imports came from just two countries, Russia and Norway, Cañete said, adding that further 13% arrived in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG), while the remaining 11% came from Algeria and Libya.
“We have also learnt our lessons from the gas crisis of 2009 and 2014 when disputes between Russia and Ukraine flared up. The Commission, in response, took a proactive role not only to mediate between our two neighbours but also to come forward with a European energy security strategy,” Cañete said, adding that this Strategy led to the European Council’s call, in June 2014, for an Energy Union. “It’s been almost four years since we started to fulfil this idea of an Energy Union, built on solidarity and trust, with concrete content,” he said.
The European Commission firmly believes in the role of Ukraine as a strategic European transit country, Cañete said, adding that keeping gas flowing through Ukraine is in the mutual interest of Europe, of Ukraine and also of Russia.
“To ensure that remains the case, it is extremely important that the deep reforms of the energy sector continue, also to underpin Ukraine’s own energy security,” said Cañete, stressing that creating a real competitive gas and electricity market, continuing to invest in energy efficiency and a sustainable renewable energy framework are key elements to Ukraine’s own long-term energy security. Ukraine has embarked on an impressive energy reform agenda, and we will continue to provide all the help needed to bring it to a successful end.
“For Ukraine and other countries in our neighbourhood who are prepared to adopt the EU energy acquis, we have the Energy Community. Under this international treaty, we are working with these countries to reform their energy sectors in line with EU energy laws and thereby make them more attractive to international investors, including international financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the World Bank. This should also help to enhance the energy security of these countries,” Cañete said.
According to the EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner, a key major project for the EU’s diversification efforts is the Southern Gas Corridor. “We already have the Northern and Eastern Gas Corridors up and running, and it remains a major priority for us to bring gas from the Caspian region directly to Europe. It is a measure of the success of all involved that the first gas from Azerbaijan will be delivered to Turkey this summer already and that it should arrive in Europe as of 2020,” said Cañete.
He also said the EU is intensifying efforts at making the very extensive gas resources discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean basin available to Europe. “In the coming weeks, I will pay a visit to Egypt and discuss our energy cooperation. We are in the final stages of agreeing on an updated Memorandum of Understanding with Egypt that would deepen our energy sector cooperation on a wide range of issues, including gas,” Cañete said,
These developments would add to the rapid expansion of the LNG market that is already contributing to our security of supply in a positive manner. “Better access to LNG can reinforce our energy resilience by enhancing supply optionality and flexibility, by allowing the EU to draw upon a global rather than just a regional supply of gas,” he said.
In this context, the appearance of the US as a major energy exporter on the global market is an important development, he said. “And while we very much appreciate the US LNG that has so far been delivered to Europe, we believe that we have an attractive, large, and competitive market that can attract more US companies to actively compete with their gas on our market,” Cañete said.