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Dear Minister Kamp

Madame Speaker Arib;

Madame Chair Sent;

My colleague, Commissioner Vella;

Distinguished Members of Parliament;

Ladies and gentlemen;

Let me start by thanking you for your invitation. But more importantly, I'd like to thank you for your focus on the parliamentary dimension of the Dutch presidency which is of critical importance, not only for this particular presidency but for Europe's democratic model.

As you know, in my previous capacity as Vice President for Inter-Institutional Affairs, I had the pleasure to regularly address national parliaments, listen to your priorities and invite you to actively engage in European policy-making on behalf of the citizens you represent. In my current capacity as Vice President for the Energy Union, I have made it a habit to continue meeting with and addressing national parliamentarians whenever possible when I visit EU countries.

My message to them, and today to you, has remained the same: engage, engage, engage! Your perspectives are indispensable for us when shaping EU policies. You are the ones in touch with your constituencies, you are the ones who are most familiar with national legislation and could therefore see the added value of European legislation, where necessary.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Dutch presidency started at a critical moment; immediately after the historic Paris Agreement when world leaders managed the impossible; to create a global legally binding framework for fighting climate change. We spoke a lot last year about the 'Road to Paris' but the 'Road from Paris' is at least as important as this is the time when we have to implement what was decided in Paris.

That is why I am particularly happy that on that Road, we can count on the Dutch Presidency as our partners thanks to a very constructive relationship we have been enjoying and thanks to the Presidency's initiatives which have been unveiled so far. Let me say a few words about some of the actions ahead of us in the weeks and months ahead, namely: addressing the non-ETS sectors, setting a new electricity market design, and encouraging smart cities, issues on which I am sure we share common grounds.

At this moment, we are working hard on our Effort Sharing proposal, which we intend to present still before the Summer. It follows the ETS reform proposal which we already put on the table last year. As set out in the 2030 Energy and Climate package that European leaders adopted in October 2014, the two together will turn our European commitment to reduce greenhouse gas commitments into reality. As a matter of fact, when looking back at the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) we see that over half of them considered carbon pricing, including emissions trading, to be a cost effective policy tool. This supports of course the EU stance, given that we now have over ten years of experience in running the world's largest emissions trading system - the EU ETS.  I think we should take pride at the fact that our experience has created political appetite in other parts of the world and has encouraged the uptake of carbon markets.

 

Also still this year we will put in place the proposal for a new electricity market design, which is necessary in order to allow a higher share of renewables in our energy mix and empowering consumers to take a much greater role in the energy market, turning them into prosumers. In other words, it will change the balance between producers and consumers, sometimes eliminating the distinction altogether.

The Commission is currently developing new measures that should stimulate the further uptake of smart technologies in the energy sector and the development of new energy services and network management processes. The first steps towards a new market design for the EU's internal electricity and gas markets are underway and legislative proposals are in preparation for the end of this year.

In fact, when speaking to Dutch parliamentarians I probably don't even need to explain the importance of an integrated and flexible electricity system. You know it best. Last year, I saw with my own eyes the impeccable collaboration between the German land of Saxony and Northern Netherlands where off-shore wind energy from the North Sea currently supplies electricity to consumers on both sides of the border. This kind of energy cooperation is exemplary and constitutes a crucial step towards a single European energy market. That is why we need to ensure energy also crosses other European borders, all European borders.

On that same day, I also had the opportunity to visit the Smart City of Groningen which is showing example by its use of advanced technology and cooperation with other cities across Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen, the role of cities is changing. Cities are where most of our population lives, works, and contribute to the economy. They are also the first to suffer from its hazardous side effects unless we smarten our cities, turn them into integrated and sophisticated systems, making advanced use of technology. Given their potential, cities must be at the forefront of climate action! That is why I announced in Paris the transformation of the Covenant of Mayors from a European network into a Global Alliance.

That is also why I am very much looking forward to the Presidency's Urban Agenda and the Pact of Amsterdam. An ambitious text in Amsterdam will be an excellent starting point for us when we meet in Bratislava under the Slovak Presidency in July. But we should move beyond written texts, however important they are. We should see tangible progress on the ground. In that respect, there are excellent examples of Dutch smart cities whether it is Groningen, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, or others – which can and should inspire other European cities to follow.

The same goes to the Circular Economy. I am sure Commissioner Vella will elaborate further but I'll just mention that when visiting the Interface manufacturing site in Scherpenzeel where I saw first-hand that ambitious energy reductions and renewable energy solutions are within reach if we are wise enough to harvest the existing knowledge and implement it.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In 2015 our emphasis was setting the priorities, developing a strategy, streamlining our practices across the Commission's services, European Parliament, and with the Member States' governments. This was not an easy exercise but it was a crucial one in order to get the next phase right: presenting the Energy Union's concrete deliverables. By the end of 2016, we intend to present almost all the actions of the Energy Union, making this year: the Year of Delivery. This will allow us to continue our exchange on the specific legislations with the European co-legislators until the end of this Commission's mandate.

I have described the upcoming proposals on non-ETS and the new electricity market design. I would like to add a few words about energy efficiency and innovation.

The review of the Energy Efficiency Directive will ensure that energy efficiency contributes to the development of a competitive, sustainable and secure EU energy market. It will establish the framework for delivering the 2030 energy efficiency target in a cost-effective way. This review will provide Member States and investors with more predictability and certainty. And if there is one issue that I have been hearing from investors all across Europe during my Tour – it is the importance of regulatory stability in order to allow more investment - much needed investment - into the energy market.

The review of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive is meant to ensure it is also still fit for purpose and that we tap into the huge energy efficiency potential in the buildings sector. We must boost the number of deep renovations and speed up the renovation rate of the existing stock. Moreover, nearly zero-energy buildings should become the norm from the agreed deadlines.

Creating a long term demand for energy efficiency, this "Energy efficiency package" will also aim at increasing confidence and trust of investors, notably throughout the Smart Financing initiative. One of the biggest obstacles the European Union is facing is indeed the chronic underinvestment in energy efficiency. The irony is that there is a huge business case for energy efficiency and we are highly committed to easing that kind of investment.

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In the area of innovation on energy technologies a great deal has been achieved through the Strategic Energy Technologies (SET) Plan. Since it was launched in 2007, annual total R&D investment in the EU for low-carbon technologies increased from €2.8 billion to €7.1 billion in 2011. That's over 250%!

The Communication on an Integrated SET Plan, adopted last September, proposes 10 focus areas for action that correspond to the Energy Union research priorities, namely: Renewables, Consumers and Energy System, Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Transport. It also works as a very good example of building a methodology to work with different actors, coming from different sectors and integrating the different inputs and ambitions.

But we need to upscale these efforts. The Commission will build on and complement the work already being done in the SET Plan in the forthcoming Integrated Strategy for Research, Innovation and Competitiveness. This Strategy, which will be adopted before the end of the year is still in the making. But it will certainly need to look at three main elements:

  1. transformative low-carbon technologies across the transport, industry and the energy sectors.
  2. non-technological innovation which is particularly important to better understand what drives energy related behaviours and promote consumers' buy-in and acceptability of large-scale technological change.
  3. And finally: looking at our global competitiveness: how to ensure innovation acts as a key driver in our industrial policy, to create an environment where our companies can take full advantage of the energy transition, in Europe and globally.

Rest assured that, in that framework, we will continue to promote the roll-out of smart infrastructure, the recognition and interoperability of smart buildings and smart appliances. This includes self-generation/consumption, a non-discriminatory access of new service providers, and clear rules on data access and data security.

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If you allow me, I will conclude here as I would like to have a chance to discuss some of these ideas with you, hear your comments and answer your questions. Let me finish by saying that the Energy Union holds a tremendous potential for citizens across Europe, for your constituents. Making it a reality will depend on cooperation across all decision-making levels, European, national, regional and local. If the discussion is limited to Brussels, its impact will also be confined to Brussels. Or 'what happens in Brussels – stays in Brussels' as we sometimes joke. This should not be the case. That is why your endorsement, your input, and engagement, are more important than ever.

Thank you very much.