BRUSSELS – The United States will remain a partner of the European Union in the fight against climate change but the decision of US President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is an opportunity for Europe to take the lead for renewables and energy efficiency, DG Energy Director General Dominique Ristori told New Europe in an exclusive interview.
“The American business is remaining close to our position. And they’re developing a lot of efforts toward the direction of low carbon economy and clean energy technologies,” Ristori said in Brussels. “US would remain a close partner but frankly, regarding Paris Agreement, we see an opportunity to take the lead, to see Europe taking the lead for renewables, for energy efficiency and this could a fantastic also opportunity to manage at the same time the clima aspect, the reduction of emissions, the reduction of energy consumption, but also opening a new route for economy with capacity to support economic development and new jobs,” Ristori told New Europe in the interview, following the opening of the European Energy Dialogue on September 7, organised by the European Economic and Social Committee that also included national binding targets for the Energy Union.
“We have already created more than one million jobs for renewable energy in Europe, more than two million jobs regarding energy efficiency. We’re in support of all key industrial sectors, not only intensive industry but also construction sector but also engineering industries and this is essential to promote in order to exploit fully all this potential,” the DG Energy Director General said.
Ristori said natural gas has an important role to play in this transitional phase, stressing that Europe has to continue its efforts to diversify its energy sources.
“Gas is contributing a lot to our economy. We have now to develop diversification. We have an important import from Russia but, at the same time, we’re making progress in the so-called Southern Corridor for Caspian gas,” he said.
“We’re also developing gas in the Mediterranean area, not only Algeria, but also Cyprus, but also Israel, but also Egypt. And this is important, combining all these point will give more competition, will give our region more completion, more good prices for our consumers and this is absolutely profitable,” the DG Energy Director General said.
Regarding Russian gas supplies to Europe and plans to build Nord Stream 2 from Russia to Germany, Ristori said Russia is representing still around 40% of the EU’s gas imports. “But I’m very pleased with progress made in the recent past regarding the Southern Corridor and we can expect the first gas arriving from the Caspian at the end of 2019,” he said.
“At the same time, we’re also developing the LNG market, extremely good. We have more and more producers, more and more liquid, more and more competition with gas arriving from Mediterranean countries but also Africa, but also US. This is extremely good for our economy and our security,” he added.
Ristori stressed that Ukraine will remain an important transit country for Russian gas supplies to Europe. “Ukraine is intermediate between Russia and the European Union. We’re supporting the effort of Ukraine in the context of reform. Ukraine has real capacity to also produce more gas and also for storage. With reform we are also developing energy, energy efficiency and we’re encouraging Ukraine to go beyond the present result,” he said.
Regarding bringing newly discovered Mediterranean gas supplies to Europe, Ristori said the first possibility will be to use liquefied natural gas. “LNG is a lot more flexible. We have a lot of new LNG terminal and we have a lot of LNG terminal in France, in UK, in Spain but also now in Greece. We have some key projects also in Croatia. We have Interconnector-Bulgaria-Greece (IGB), extremely important. We have excellent dialogue on energy with Greece,” he said.
He also reminded that the Eastern Mediterranean (EastMed) pipeline project to build an offshore/onshore natural gas pipeline, directly connecting East Mediterranean resources to Greece via Cyprus and Crete is a possibility “and we are working for that”.
The DG Energy Director General said he plans to attend the first ever Clean Energy for EU Islands forum, which will take place on September 22 in Chania, the second largest city of the Greek island of Crete. “We will be in Chania on September 22 with Prime Minister (Alexis) Tsipras, (Climate Action and Energy) Commissioner (Miguel) Arias Cañete to launch a new European Island Initiative extremely important to all these countries comprising of many islands. Things are moving in the right direction,” Ristori said.
He brushed off concerns about stability in the region, including Turkey, saying: “We have political dialogue on energy with all these countries. We will also develop discussion even more with Egypt. Stability is important, governance is important but I’m confident there will be progress in this direction”.