Speech at the Plenary of the European Parliament, 24  November 2015




Honourable Members,

9 months ago we had a debate in this plenary when I was here to present the Energy Union Strategy with a forward-looking climate policy adopted by the Commission.

I was very encouraged by your reactions in this house. This gave the Strategy important momentum from the very beginning.

9 months of intensive work and intensive contacts have passed since then.

In the Commission, this was important collective work involving 14 commissioners of the Energy Union Project Team. I would like to thank them for this, here in the plenary.

We have proven that the new Commission structure works and can deliver!

Last week, we added a new instrument to our Energy Union toolbox: the State of the Energy Union Report.

This shall become an annual exercise to take stock but also to provide concrete policy guidance for the year ahead.

This will allow you and us to keep the momentum and to have a debate every year about all the dimensions of the Energy Union.

Your support and your commitment to this ambitious project are crucial.

You as co-legislator will have to set the legislative framework for the Energy Union, and you can carry the debate into your capitals and constituencies.

Let me highlight four key messages that need political attention in 2016.

First: the EU must remain the leader in the transition to a low-carbon society. COP21 is only days away where the EU and notably our Chief negotiator Miguel Arias Cañete will spare no effort to get an ambitious, legally binding agreement with a built-in review mechanism.

The EU must continue to lead the way also after COP21:

The ETS reform and a new electricity market design must bring the right signals for clean and energy efficient technologies.

We will make proposals for a Heating and Cooling Strategy and for the decarbonisation of transport.

We will propose the Effort Sharing Decision in the non-ETS sectors.

We will present legislation to ensure that we reach the 2030 targets on renewables and energy efficiency, the latter having in mind an EU level of 30%.

In parallel, we will further develop our financing instruments, making them more suitable for financing needs at the local level and for the energy efficiency needs in the buildings sector.

My second main message: If we want this fundamental energy transition to be successful, it has to be socially fair and consumer-centred.

We must empower our consumers as we explained in the Communication that we discussed with you in Plenary in September, together with the rest of the summer package.

But I am also convinced that in 2016, we should pay particular attention to the increasing number of the energy poor. When next year, we will review our legislation, we should make sure that the interests of energy poor consumers are duly taken into account.

Third message: in 2016, geopolitical challenges will not go away: we need to be on top of them.

We have to keep pushing for the diversification of energy sources, routes and suppliers, e.g. through an ambitious LNG Strategy which we will present in February.

At the same time, we will present a revision of the Security of Gas Supply Regulation and proposals to revise the decision on Intergovernmental Agreements.

Let me mention another issue to which I want to pay special attention: we have to speed up work on infrastructure projects. I am glad that we also adopted the 2nd PCI list. A list that is more focused (moving from 248 to 195 projects of common interest) and much better aligned to the core objectives of the Energy Union!

Let me say a word on North Stream 3 and 4: I know this is subject of huge interest and concern to this house, as also reflected in President Buzek's letter sent to me and Commissioner Arias Canete two weeks ago on behalf of the ITRE Committee.

We have taken note of the plans of commercial companies to build further pipelines connecting Russia and Germany through the Baltic Sea. These pipelines, if built, will have to comply fully with EU law.

But let me also state that this project would not give access to a new source of supply and even further increase excess transmission capacity from Russia to the EU.

The EU will only support infrastructure projects that are in line with the core principles of the Energy Union, including the EU Energy Security Strategy. Diversification of energy sources, suppliers and routes is crucial for ensuring secure and resilient supplies to European citizens and companies.

It is for these reasons that the North Stream project will not become a project of common interest and will not benefit from EU financing.

But let me also clearly say this: Ukraine has proven to be a reliable transit partner for Russian gas throughout the last winter.

And the EU believes it is in the interest of all parties that Ukraine remains an important transit country.

Last but not least, my fourth message. With this State of the Energy Union, we are laying the first building blocks of a ‘governance mechanism’ that will bring more transparency and predictability to investors and businesses. The low-carbon and energy efficient technologies are here. But they need investment.

When ready, the governance mechanism will thus be based on three pillars:

1. the State of the Energy Union report, with its policy conclusions and country fact sheets, all of which we will further develop in the coming years. That way, we will keep the implementation of the Energy Union under close scrutiny and we keep it regularly on the European agenda, through a discussion in the European Parliament and in different Council formations. It will also allow the European Council to give continued guidance on this issue.

2. National Energy and Climate Plans with biannual progress reports, covering all five dimensions and covering the 2021-2030 period and promoting regional cooperation between Member States. This year, we provide first guidance and key indicators for the progress reports. Next year we will come with a proposal so that this monitoring and reporting system is firmly anchored in legislation.

3. the sector-specific legislation that I mentioned before, in particular to ensure that we reach the 2030 targets.

In all this, we will ensure that the European Parliament will play its full part in making the Energy Union happen.

So we got off to a good start in 2015. My promise to you today is that 2016 will be the Energy Union's 'year of delivery'!