The EU is at a very delicate point in time with regards to energy and climate change
policies. The current state of play will entail several ongoing pivotal and strategical
debates: the ETS system which needs to be revised, the shale gas issue, as well as the
new energy efficiency targets are highlighting limp policy improvements, especially at a
member states level.
With regards to the inextricable interrelation between energy and climate change
policies, the EU seems thus to be arrived at a crucial stage which will determine the
credibility of its future engagements. If the European public debate and declaration of
intent, particularly from the Commission, have clearly paved the way for a transition to a
low carbon economy, the decision making process is encountering several internal and
external hustles. In addition, low carbon prices and the success of shale gas extraction
in the US have disrupted the discreet success of the international public discourse in the
aftermath of the Durban Convention on climate change.
As notably some of the 2020 emission reduction objectives have been achieved also
due to the economic downturn, at the present stage, the future of a credible policy of
transition towards a low-carbon economy relies upon a credible political engagement
which appears under pressure. Changing the direction of the EU economic model in time
of economic crisis is evidently not an easy task, in particular when trying to implement a
business-friendly environment through environmentally-friendly investments. Managing
risk and opportunities of a low carbon transition implies that businesses have certainty
on the pathway and on timely decision making, as well as on the predictability of highlevel
In order to deal with this changing policy and regulatory environment, entrepreneurs
from all energy sectors need to know which emerging policies and developments will
affect their operations most significantly and how to best anticipate the uncertain
markets and the impacts of future changes. Europe as a whole is sending contrasting
signals which are not helping renewables to receive the impetus which is needed for the
target set out to reach as a long-term strategy. If on the one hand, the EU agrees on
high environmental standards, on the other hand, this fact is confirming the viability of
the so called lowest common denominator decision-making process.
This method is arguably unable to provide the activeness which is required by the current scenario.It will be fundamental to understand which will be the immediate future of energy
policies, especially from the point of view of the energy mix which the EU intends to
adopt for the future.The interplay between the debates on the energy road map and the
shale gas issue, along with the discussion on offshore gas drilling, should give a
valuable insight on these matters currently under debate: the EU energy production, its
environmental standards and the obstacles towards a low carbon economy transition.
The path towards the EU Energy Roadmap 2050
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change reached an agreement
towards future legally binding actions to take at a global level (10 December 2011). The
EU has emerged as the major propelling force due to its legitimate interests and its
previous commitments under the Kyoto agreements, which should serve as a flying
bridge for this new establishment. All countries participating at the Convention, including
reluctant India and China, agreed upon both a new mitigation regime to be discussed by
2015 and the beginning of its implementation by 2020. In addition, a package of climate
friendly measures should be enforced under the Green Climate Fund1 which should
allocate $ 100 billion. This contribution should flow from rich to emerging countries,
though it is still unclear who, among the former, should bear the costs.
Subsequently (15 December), the EU Commission has made public a long-awaited
Communication with a detailed description of the policy orientation towards an “Energy
Roadmap 2050″2. This new strategy has the ambitious aim to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions (GGE) of 80-90% by 2050, given 1990 levels. The implementation of the
previously put-into-force 2020 strategy has so far achieved a reduction level of 10%.
Even though there has been a widespread agreement on the valuable contribution of the
recession to this result, the Commission has clearly stated the achievability of these new
ambitious aims, given the current trend scenarios undertaken within its analysis and
In addition, despite uncertainties with regards to the commercial use of shale gas and
the introduction of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) system, as well as to the role of
nuclear power and climate change attitudes around the world, the Energy Roadmap
communication takes a clear positive stance claiming the necessity of a “no regrets”
approach. The policy orientation towards the enhancing of an environmentally
sustainable energy market, the boosting of the EU economy and the security of supplies
have thus daringly emerged both at a Council and at a Commission level, though within
some degree of discrepancy on the priorities during and after the consultation period at
the beginning of last year.
The Commission has also been preparing specific goals on relevant sectorial policy challenges, as actions towards the power sector, transports, industries, residential and services, as well as agriculture need to be calibrated with their respective patterns.
Boosting energy efficiency and differentiation measures and provide
for a favourable investing climate will be essential. The Commission recognised that
uncertainty is a major barrier to investment and it is necessary to provide for a firm
forward-looking policy and legislative framework.
In order to assure a secure competitive, decarbonised energy system, the energy sector
is in need to be gradually reshaped given the need to consider developments throughout
the globe and especially within suppliers in neighbour countries. The highly volatile
fossils fusels prices are considered dangerous for the EU economy both in terms of
competitiveness and supply security, as the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and the Libyan
case have soundly demonstrated.
The Commission has undertaken that a major shift within the energy paradigm was also
globally needed in order to offset the effects of the forecasted changes within the internal
market. This is a point of view can explain the EU diplomatic boldness at the Durban
Convention. The EU energy mix is in fact expected to be radically reshaped by 2050.
Renewables should increase up to 60% of the supply, the nuclear is supposed to
gradually fade away, while oil and solid fuels should be drastically reduced to lower one
digit percentages. Gas should remain in a steady state confirming its strategic role in the
transition to a decarbonised economy4. Energy efficiency and electricity will play a
pivotal role. While the Commission has already presented an Energy Efficiency Plan,
emphasising the necessity to influence consumers’ habitudes as well, electricity costs
are persisted to rise to 2030, when refurbishment infrastructures costs over the 30/40
years foreseen to complete the energy shift, should be mortised.
Decentralisation is considered another important driver of change. The interplay
between infrastructures and an efficient energy internal market have in fact been
frequently pointed out. Hindering factors for a common energy market is often attributed
both to main providers’ resistance and the absence of a European energy smart grid,
which are often not convenient for large nation–based companies.
The issue of storage is featured high as well within this new EU strategy, as storage
technologies are maintained critical. Greater efficiencies and competitiveness are
required to go along with the improvement of infrastructures in order to manage the
variations of wind and solar power. This factor should decrease the need for backup
capacity and baseload supplies.
As a result of all the above, investments in R&D are strongly encouraged with the double
aim of boosting the EU economy and of speeding up the commercialization of all lowcarbon
The EU Energy Roadmap has been drafted within two main principles: firstly, climate
changes call for a swift and concrete action. Secondly, being energy defined as a public
good, it needs to be managed within an effective open-market under the EU framework.
It will thus result strategical to tackle this issue in order to reshape and readapt the EU
economy to the current political and economical global mainstreams. The Commission
has also understandably underlined the capital importance of a broader and more
coordinated EU approach to international energy relations.
«L’absurde naît de cette confrontation entre l’appel humain et le silence déraisonnable du monde», A.Camus, Le Mythe de Sisyphe, 1942