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The Warsaw Voice » Law » December 3, 2008
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More Effective Development of European Energy Networks-New Challenge to European Union
December 3, 2008   
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On Nov. 13, 2008, as a part of the Second Strategic Energy Review package, the European Commission proposed a Green Paper "Towards a secure, sustainable and competitive European energy network".1

The package is aimed at meeting all three of the EU's core energy objectives: sustainability, competitiveness, and security of supply.2 The core documents are the EU Energy Security and Solidarity Action Plan as well as a number of supporting documents, notably Green Paper on energy networks. The package also supports the 20-20-20 initiative,3 which should be rapidly adopted. Among the five areas on which the Action Plan focuses is promotion of infrastructure essential to the EU's energy needs.

The development of infrastructure to transport electricity, gas, oil and other fuels plays a crucial role in achieving the EU's ambitious climate and energy goals. The aging European energy networks, based on traditional fossil fuel supply systems, face an increasing risk of network inability to deliver the energy from producers to consumers. Between now and 2030, it is estimated that up to 1 trillion euros will have to be spent on the EU's electricity network and generation capacity, and 150 billion euros on gas networks (excluding import pipelines from third countries). European networks need to be modernized and to become more flexible, utilizing conventional and renewable sources of electricity production as well as incorporating intelligent energy technologies. New grid connections should link those EU countries that are insufficiently connected with other member states in order to guarantee them full participation in the internal energy market. This will fit in with the development of international energy networks - an important element of EU energy policy.

For the purpose of better promotion of new energy networks, the Commission identified six priority strategic projects: the Baltic Interconnection Plan, new Southern Gas Corridor, Liquefied Natural Gas, Mediterranean Energy Ring, North-South gas and electricity interconnections within Central and South-East Europe, and a Blueprint for North Sea offshore grid.

The Baltic Interconnection Plan, covering gas, electricity and storage, is aimed at connecting the Baltic region with other parts of the EU. The Commission agreed that the Baltic Interconnection Plan is necessary to achieve renewable energy objectives, to secure sustainable energy supplies, and to build up energy solidarity among countries of the Baltic Region and among other member states. According to the EU energy security and solidarity action plan, works on drawing up the Baltic Interconnection Plan will be handled by a High Level Group made up of members from the states most directly concerned.

A Green Paper on energy networks also sets out a new EU approach to energy network development aimed at the following goals and objectives: - promoting public understanding and solidarity by improving the flow of information and communication with citizens on energy network issues; - achieving the 20-20-20 targets by a comprehensive strategy for the integration of renewables into the grid and the promotion of projects that carry power from resource-rich areas (for example, wind in coastal areas), by the promotion of new grid technologies for more efficient and flexible use of local energy sources, by Europe-wide offshore grids, and by the promotion of CO2 capture, transport and storage; - innovation and new technologies (a flexible European grid with ample storage capacities incorporating various sources of electricity production).

For over 13 years the EU has been implementing its energy network policy mainly by the Trans European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) program. For greater effectiveness and to best meet today's energy challenges, TEN-E needs to be reviewed and updated. For that purpose the Commission proposes a number of measures such as increasing the TEN-E budget, extending the scope of TEN-E to the full energy supply network (for example, to oil pipelines), or market driven TEN E planning. There are also plans mooted to replace the existing TEN-E with the EU Energy Security and Infrastructure Instrument, which would aim to achieve all the European renewable energy objectives through assistance for infrastructure projects launched within the borders of the European Union and outside the member countries.

To secure its energy future and create more suitable conditions for investments in renewable energy and decentralized generation, the EU is seeking to place more emphasis on its energy policy, notably in an energy network development policy fully in line with its climate and energy goals. Numerous complex, multinational projects should be expected in the short to medium term backed up by major funding, both public and private.

1 COM(2008)782
2 Presidency conclusions, European Council, March 2007
3 i.e. reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, increasing the share of renewables in energy consumption to 20%, improving energy efficiency by 20%, all by 2020
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