New energy plan seeks to reduce EU’s reliance on foreign gas and oil.
Energy prices in the EU have risen by an average of 15% in the last year. More than 50% of the EU's energy comes from countries outside the union – and the percentage is growing.
All of this highlights the need for the EU to monitor its oil and gas supplies more closely and be better prepared in the event of an energy emergency. A new energy package will help the EU meet its climate change targets and reduce gas and oil imports.
For decades, EU countries have maintained emergency oil stocks. The commission now wants to make those stocks more readily available and clarify when and how they can be used. It also wants the public to have more information on commercial oil inventories.
After oil, gas is the most important fuel in the EU’s energy mix. Although 60% comes from outside the union, the EU still does not have an emergency plan in case supplies are disrupted. As part of its energy strategy, the commission is launching consultations with EU countries about establishing such a plan.
Another high priority is setting up a southern gas corridor of pipeline networks to bring gas from the Caspian Sea region via Turkey. Construction looks set to begin in 2010.
The EU is also keen to strengthen its energy networks – the power lines and pipelines that bring electricity, gas and oil to homes and businesses – and equip them to handle renewable sources of energy like wind. The possibility of creating an offshore wind park in the North Sea is being studied.
The strategy calls for continued efforts to boost energy efficiency – such as renovating residential and commercial buildings. Another proposal calls for energy labels for tyres starting in 2012.
Nuclear energy is also addressed – including safety and waste management. Currently, nuclear plants generate about one-third of Europe’s electricity and more than a dozen EU countries are looking to build new ones.