Support for EU Commission Energy Union Package
As Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, attended the Council of Energy Ministers in Brussels recently (Thursday, 5 March). The agenda included discussions on the recently published EU Commission Energy Union Package.
At the Council meeting, I strongly supported the Energy Union Package as a way to strengthen the three pillars of European energy policy – security of supply, competitiveness and sustainability. Five “dimensions” are prioritised: enhancing energy security through solidarity amongst Member States; a fully integrated Internal Energy Market; energy efficiency; decarbonisation; and the contribution of Research and Innovation to the EU’s jobs and growth agenda and competitiveness.
As Minister I endorsed plans to enhance Europe’s energy security, which is particularly important for inadequately connected Member States like Ireland and those reliant on only one supply source. Given our high dependency on imported oil and gas, Ireland is particularly vulnerable to price and supply shocks.
It is vital that diversity of routes and sources of energy, and the appropriate infrastructure are put in place to address these challenges. Rollout of Projects of Common Interest, with the support as required from the EU Connecting Europe Facility and the European Fund for Strategic Investments are important elements in overcoming these challenges.
I stressed the need to embrace all renewable technologies, including wind, solar and biomass and to continue the focus on Research and Innovation, particularly, for example, in relation to ocean energy and developing wave and tidal technologies.
The Energy Union Package accords with the emerging themes in Ireland’s revised Energy Policy Paper to be published in September. There is also a strong underlying element to the EU Package that stresses the need for more empowered and participative energy citizens.
I reiterated support for the completion of the Internal Energy Market and the development of regional markets. In my intervention I highlighted the North Seas Countries Offshore Grid Initiative, of which Ireland is a founder signatory, which he believes can act as a catalyst for the integrated energy market.
On the achievement of a 10% electricity interconnections target, I repeated the position I have put forward several times, i.e. for our energy consumers to reap the benefits of the Internal Energy Market, poorly interconnected countries must have additional interconnection.
Ireland has witnessed the benefits of regional cooperation since the establishment of the all-Ireland Single Electricity Market (SEM) in November 2007. The benefits achieved by the SEM include improved security of supply, competitive prices, and increased penetration of renewable energy – the key goals of the Energy Union.
Ireland supports the EU’s ambition for climate and energy to 2030 and the Government is fully engaged in determining an ambitious contribution from Ireland that is cost-effective, achievable and fair in terms of the sharing of the burden across all EU Member States.
In this regard, I also welcomed the Commission’s Communication on “The Paris Protocol – A blueprint for tackling global climate change beyond 2020”, which is intended to prepare the EU for the last round of negotiations before the Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015.