The common energy policy was the initial impetus for the European integration process. It gave rise to the first integrating organisations in the territory of what is now the European Union – the European Coal and Steel Community (1951) and the European Atomic Energy Community (1957).

The European energy policy is one of the EU’s main priorities. High dependence on imports, imbalances between areas of production and consumption, high energy prices, and the negative effects of the energy industry on the global climate are problems faced by all Member States. Cooperation at European level is essential for tackling these issues effectively. In light of these challenges, the European Commission has launched a number of energy policy activities aimed at combating climate change, reducing the EU’s dependence on external gas and oil supplies, and promoting long-term economic growth and jobs.

In January 2007, the European Commission issued a package of fundamental energy documents in which it spells out proposals, measures and solutions to be used as the basis in forming the EU’s future common energy policy. This energy package is the result of a review of the EU’s energy strategy published in a Green Paper in March 2006. The package sets out the top priorities of the EU’s current energy policy – secure, sustainable and (in relation to the Lisbon Agenda) competitive energy. The main objective of the package is to create a genuine internal market in energy and to reinforce effective regulation.

In September 2007, the European Commission published its third liberalisation package of draft energy legislation. The measures under the third energy package are designed to help round off market liberalisation. One of the key proposals in the package is ownership unbundling – the separation of electricity generation from the transmission system. At the June Energy Council, three variants of ownership unbundling were proposed. The first, which is consistent with the European Commission’s original proposal, anticipates the introduction of strict ownership unbundling of electricity generation from the transmission system. The second variant anticipates the formation of an independent system operator (ISO) to function as an ownership-unbundled company operating energy transmission on another entity’s assets. According to the third variant, an independent transmission operator (ITO) would be formed, thereby legally unbundling the transmission system from energy production. All three variants were recognised as legitimate by the EU Energy Council. Each Member State will therefore be able to choose the variant which best suits its specific conditions.

Another package of measures impinging on the energy sector is the energy and climate package from January 2008. It contains legislative proposals to combat climate change and improve the security of supply, as well as competitiveness, in the energy sector. To make it possible to achieve the renewable energy policy goals declared at the EU Summit in March 2007, the European Commission has proposed a directive setting national renewable energy targets for all Member States. The directive contains the binding target to increase the share of renewable energy sources in final energy consumption to 20% throughout the EU in 2020, and to achieve a 10% share of biofuel consumption in the transport sector.

The newest package of proposals dated November 2008 addresses energy security and energy effectiveness. The most important part of these proposals is the Second Strategic Energy Review (2nd SER), which forms the base of the ‘EU Energy Security and Solidarity Action Plan’ focusing on energy security, external relations and infrastructure.

The 2nd  SER defines six priority areas: the planned interconnection of the Baltic countries, the Southern Gas Corridor (Nabucco), LNG, the Mediterranean energy ring (development of wind and solar energy, integration of the trans-Sahara gas line), the North-South interconnection within Central and South-East Europe and ‘off-shore wind’ in the North Sea (connection of wind farms in the North Sea to UCTE networks). The 2nd  SER is accompanied by an analysis of supply and demand, documentation of the resources, production costs and performance of the technologies used in the production of electricity, heating and transportation.

The package also contains other legislative proposals and communications such as a proposal for revision of the legislation on the strategic oil reserves which seeks to establish available stock to be used in the event of supply outages.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:01

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