Almost ten years after its launch, the EU’s energy security strategy needs to be rewritten in light of the climate crisis and Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine, writes Joanna Mackowiak Pandera.
Europe needs a new energy security strategy

Joanna Mackowiak Pandera, PhD, is the founder and president of Forum Energii. 

The European Union’s Energy Security Strategy was adopted in 2014, shortly after Russia annexed Crimea.

By now, not all of it has been implemented, and some of its points are outdated. European Union countries are collectively facing a structural fossil fuel energy deficit. The continent’s oil, gas, and coal resources are minimal, and building new dependencies is a growing geopolitical challenge—the purchase of fuels cost the EU €720 billion last year.

The climate crisis and environmental pollution are among the reasons for the shift away from fossil fuels, but not the only ones. Ten years ago, there were few viable alternatives, but new technologies—renewables, storage, digitalisation—are changing the energy industry, reshaping the map of possibilities for dealing with crises.

This must be reflected in the strategic documents following the European elections next year.

Old approach 

Energy security in the European Union does not have a single and consistent definition. The most common citation, following the International Energy Agency, is that the measure of energy security is uninterrupted access to affordable energy sources. This definition was written decades ago and is no longer in line with today’s reality.

For decades, the European Union’s economy has thrived on its own and imported fossil fuels from, among others, Russia. Political tensions and crises in supplies and raw materials gave policymakers pause, but the temptation to use cheap resources was too strong.

We Europeans explained to ourselves in various ways that this approach was the right one. Among the arguments in favour of Nord Stream 2, for example, was that it was an investment that would minimise the risk of Russian aggression against other countries (Wandel durch Handel). The threat from Russia was gradually growing, but like a slowly boiling frog, we were not reacting to the rising temperature before it was too late.

At the heart of this old approach was the belief that we had no other choice—”energy security demands it” was the argument that cut off discussion.

A good example comes from my country, Poland, one of the most dependent on coal, a domestic cheap resource keeping us energy independent. But Polish coal gradually became more and more expensive, and extraction fell by 30%. The coal gap was filled with imports, primarily from Russia. Other options for electricity generation were not even considered.

Despite strenuous attempts to stop the march of time, coal mining in Poland, like other energy resources in the EU, is inevitably ending. Technological development presents us with other challenges—we must seek access to critical deposits of materials necessary for the energy transition, such as lithium, copper, and rare earths.

Security today depends on answers that meet the needs of our technological achievements, not ones that look to old solutions.

Era of new possibilities 

Last year, many things happened for the first time.

Russia used the huge trade in fuels as a kind of weapon, an element of pressure on Europe. Then, for the first time, the supply of raw materials from Russia was almost completely halted quickly. In parallel, a record number of new fuel supply contracts was concluded. In turn, energy prices jumped by up to 300%. Winter came and went, energy prices are falling, and everything seems to be back on track.

However, nothing is the same as before. Fluctuations in energy prices will continue, and we are far from equilibrium in fuel supplies. These changes will hamper planning and delay much-needed investments.

Will we look back with sentiment and seek a return to the old ways? No, it is better to act responsibly now and treat the past year’s experience as a gift—we need to change our thinking about what energy security is today.

What’s next? 

Call a spade a spade. We have a problem in the European Union with delaying the energy transition, which increases costs and negatively affects security.

However, the situation is much better than it was before. A new definition of energy security should be based on the electrification of key sectors of the economy and an unrestricted supply of electricity from zero-carbon sources combined with energy efficiency.

Key is also a new approach to data and informing the public about the necessary changes. The immense lack of knowledge and manipulation of information about climate policy is a source of public anxiety if not addressed.

One also cannot overlook the mistakes in climate policy, such as failing to recognise the threat posed by dependence on fuel imports, particularly from Russia. Now is the time to correct them.

Energy security should be based on energy efficiency and renewables but also see the need to supply other critical raw materials as demand for them will increase. Energy security concerns also require strengthening the institutions responsible for implementing climate and energy policy – it should be high on the agenda after the European elections.

We need a new energy security strategy in the European Union, and this strategy should pursue the notion that we must build grids, not pipelines.

Source: euractiv.com

COMMENT

A Anne DeLaterre

En espérant qu'aucun Européen ne soit lésé par le manque d'énergie... Certes, la politique des politiques n'est pas non plus sans influence.

9 months ago

COMMENT


A Alice Hooffmans

Why has the European Union thought of diversifying its energy sources in recent years?

9 months ago

COMMENT


F Fred Sochard

Currently traveling through South-Western Europe (🇫🇷🇪🇸🇵🇹) and am actually shocked how little Solar cells there are on the buildings. Residential buildings is one thing but factory and other industrial buildings have so much roof surface area which could be covered. Why not?

9 months ago

COMMENT


S Slava Bobrov

The biggest solar producers are not even in sunny side of Europe as can be seen here below. The Southern European countries are far below. Time for the politics to change and source power for itself and EU?

9 months ago

COMMENT


C Christelle GNIDEHOUE

How does that help those of us who have seen massive rises in energy costs today?

9 months ago

COMMENT


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