“I believe in the EU #EnergyUnion” – interview with EU Climate & Energy Commissioner Canete
Google-translated from Polish source (3 May 2015):
‘The common market will benefit – says Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy.
Q: Poland […] continues to invest in the construction of new coal-fired power plants based on coal and lignite. But is this reasonable in the context of the direction of decarbonisation, where Europe is heading?
Canete: We fully understand the economic and sociological importance of coal to Poland. That is why the EU Commission supports the development and use of clean coal technologies such as CCS, both in Poland and throughout Europe. But if the objective is greater energy independence, I can also imagine other ways of achieving it. For example, Poland has a huge, untapped potential for increasing energy efficiency and modernization of energy infrastructure. The European Commission is ready to support these types of efforts. What’s more, you should question whether exclusive insistence on the coal scenario for the Polish actually works to the advantage of the country’s energy security, since Poland imports about 60% coal from Russia.
For that, such an approach will not be particularly helpful in our common efforts to protect the climate.
Q: Does the voice of the so-called Polish “own path” efforts to reduce emissions have more supporters or opponents in the EU?
Canete: As mentioned, there is no one way to reduce emissions. There are many pathways leading to this end. Improving energy efficiency is an excellent way to simultaneously reduce the emission and increase energy independence.
Finally, there is a cheaper and more secure energy than that which was not produced and consumed. Luckily Polish potential in this aspect is significant. The local economy is 2.2 times more energy-intensive than the average in the European Union and there is still a wide margin for improvement.
Just by reducing the level of our consumption by 20%, we could create 400 thousand new jobs, and every household in the EU could save up to a thousand euros.
Improving energy efficiency is undoubtedly the Polish strategy, where each party is won. You should not miss the opportunity to modernize the fleet of its power plants from dedicated funds created from the proceeds of the EU ETS (European Emissions Trading System – ed.).
This will not only reduce the greenhouse effect resulting from excessive emissions, but also significantly improve air quality.
We strive, therefore, to establish, together with Polish constructive position with regard to the allocation of funds earmarked for modernization and decarbonisation under the new EU ETS, to how best to achieve these goals.
Q: The hottest part of the energy and climate package 2030 is the reform of the Emissions Trading System, including the mechanism for the stabilization reserve. You are a supporter of introducing it until the end of this decade or longer after 2020? Why?
Canete: The previous EU Commission proposed implementation of the Market Stability Reserve in 2021. However, the problem of oversupply of CO2 emission rights is gaining importance. And it is a proposal to create a mechanism would solve it. Therefore, you should address this urgently. Both the European Parliament and the Member States are under negotiation and modifications to the solutions proposed by both parties.
It is very important because in order to reach an agreement as soon as possible in order to provide predictability to the market and to set the path for the price of allowances, which would be more consistent with our goals to reduce emissions. I therefore support the amendments tabled on the Proposal that ultimately will be accepted both by the Parliament and the European Council.
Q: You are a proponent of the Energy Union. When will the implementation of common mechanisms lead to the creation of pan-European market or even regional energy markets? Is this idea not impossible to meet, when we are dealing with national energy policies and regulations at the level of individual countries?
Canete: The Energy Union is the most ambitious project in Europe over the last 50 years. Therefore, its implementation began with the appointment of medium- and long-term approach. However, working out the details on deadlines and specific goals, many of which have already been established. By 2020 for example, we reach 10% power transmission capacity between member states, and by 2030 this will reach up to 15%. At the same time we achieve 27% improvement of energy efficiency and 40% national emission reduction. Our plan of action is already in progress, and many infrastructure projects have become a reality.
The Energy Union certainly has a bright future. Part of our strategy is to try to harmonize energy policies in Europe. It will only make sense if they bring to create an integrated energy market.
It is essential that Member States benefited from one source or set up the same energy mixes. The diversity in this regard should be the result of choices made by each country based on its strengths. It is not at odds with the idea of union power. But it is important that this comes from a variety of sources energy can flow freely throughout the European Union. To achieve this, I am determined to build the single market, where in addition to the free movement of capital, people, goods and services, energy flows as the “fifth freedom” of the EU. It does not only increase the reliability of energy supply, but also will make energy more accessible to our citizens and businesses. I am convinced of the benefits from the creation of the Energy Union and will use every opportunity to make it a reality.
Q: What infrastructure investments do you consider most necessary to implement the idea of the Energy Union?
Canete: The creation of interconnections, which are cross-border bridges necessary to achieve our objectives relating to free movement, which will become a real cornerstone of the Energy Union. The Commission has compiled a list of 248 priority infrastructure projects implemented by private investors with the use of EU funds. Many of them have already arisen, and the results are impressive. Last week, she sailed current energy bridge built between Malta and Sicily, connecting the island country to the rest of Europe, thereby ending supply disruption. Inter-connection of Finland and Estonia, Estlink began operations just a few weeks, and already equaled the price levels in these countries and tripled mutual exchange between them. Similarly, the project between France and Spain inaugurated in February, which will lead to a doubling of capacity France with the Iberian Peninsula, putting an end to electrical insulation in the region.
We want to repeat this success in other regions of Europe that are poorly connected. In this context, I am very pleased that the opening of the first Polish-Lithuanian interconnection is planned for the autumn. This is the first important step towards integrating the energy systems of the Baltic States with the European system and alignment of electricity prices in the region. Also I count on the support of the Polish government in the implementation of this plan.
Q: Our parliament passed recently after five years of work the law on renewable energy sources. How do you assess it in the context of new guidelines for state aid adopted by the European Commission last year?
Canete: I am glad that you finally created a stable legal framework for investment in renewable energy in Poland. This process took quite a long time. But this is a positive step not only towards the construction of less emission energy mix but also to reduce dependence on imports. Poland has a very high potential for the development of the renewable energy sources, especially those based on biomass and wind. At the same time, we see that Poland has learned from the mistakes of other countries deciding to introduce a system of support based on the auctions, which should help to avoid unnecessary costs. The EU Commission has repeatedly called for such a market approach. Now a lot will depend on the implementation of this system in the right way, which will allow investment to move.
What do you expect from the UN climate summit in Paris?
Canete: The summit in Paris will be of crucial importance for the future of our Planet. The legally binding protocol will, in turn, be the best way to show our willingness to undertake certain obligations. Except that we cannot accept in any protocol to its wording. If we want the agreement to succeed, it must meet two basic requirements. First, there must be ambitious, which is showing the contribution of each country’s efforts to combat climate change. The second issue is the widest geographical coverage. The European Union has already presented its goals. But we should not forget that our emissions represent only 9% of the world’s. It is therefore necessary to contract other industrialized countries, including the so-called emerging economies.
Paris will build on the grounds of the Polish presidency of the COP and achievements of the Warsaw Conference. I am convinced that we will reach an agreement. This is a big challenge, but also a great opportunity to fight for a more sustainable economy, in defense of future generations and our Planet. We can not miss it.’