*check against delivery*
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here with you today to outline the main aspects of the European Green Deal from an energy policy perspective.
President von der Leyen has said from the outset that the Green Deal is the main priority of this Commission. It represents a crucial change in our thinking – setting a clear path for the fundamental shift towards a carbon-neutral economy by mid-century.
Energy generation, transmission and conversion is responsible for 75% of the EU’s emissions. Therefore, the transformation of our energy sector will form the backbone of our efforts and it will also be a precondition for decarbonising other sectors.
In Plenary last week, you have adopted with a large majority the Resolution on the Green deal. This is a sign of your commitment to the Green Deal – and I look forward to engaging with you on some of the aspects raised.
The European Green Deal takes a comprehensive approach to the challenges ahead. It aims to decouple economic growth from resource use. It brings more certainty for investments we need to modernise and reduce the environmental impact of our society and our economy.
Shifting to a carbon-neutral economy means that some regions are going to face greater challenges than others. The Commission acknowledges this and has addressed this challenge swiftly and proactively.
In order to ensure a fair and just transition in the most affected regions and people in every Member State, the Commission proposed last week the Just Transition Mechanism and the Green Deal Investment Plan.
I will not go into the details of the Just Transition Mechanism as you just had a long debate in Plenary last week, but let me highlight a few aspects of the Just Transition Fund which I am particularly attached to:
- The Fund will give a specific boost to those that face the toughest challenge when preparing their energy transition. We have built this fund taking on board the experience and the expertise of the Coal in transition regions initiative. We do not start from zero.
- Money will be used to ensure for clean energy investments in those regions, for workers to learn new skills and for business to create job opportunities.
Because of the expertise developed working on the Coal in transition regions platforms, I count on my services to be actively involved in the implementation of the Just Transition Mechanism and I will personally keep a close eye on the plans to be submitted by Member States.
Now I would like to turn to the proposals that will be presented as part of the European Green Deal which will directly impact the EU energy policy:
- 'Energy efficiency first' is a vital principle in the clean energy transition. I want to do more to ensure it applies in practice. I therefore intend to provide concrete guidelines to Member States and a tool which can help mainstream it into all levels of policy-making.
- An obvious place to start is to further improve the energy efficiency of buildings. This should be a combined effort at EU and national level. But this is not enough, we also need to trigger a “renovation wave” if we want to triple the existing, insufficient, rate of renovations. That will require concerted action, from the European to the local level, by policy makers, citizens, industry and financial institutions.
- I want the renovation initiative to include social housing, so that it can help to address energy poverty. Latest figures indicate that up to 50 million people around the EU are not able to properly heat their homes. The houses where our children study, where the sick are treated and where the most vulnerable consumers live must become a priority!
- I also see an opportunity in improving the energy efficiency of household appliances. I aim to put forward a new, innovative, multiannual work programme for ecodesign and ecolabelling, to ensure sustainability of products in a circular economy.
By June 2020, I will present a strategy for smart sector integration which will promote stronger integration of the electricity, heating and cooling, transport, gas, industry, and agricultural sectors – making it easier and more efficient to incorporate renewables into all parts of the energy sector.
The objective is to achieve carbon neutrality at the lowest possible cost, by building a smart, flexible and resilient energy system. Such a smart system will need to make full use of electricity. But it will also rely, to some extent, on decarbonised gases.
We have already achieved impressive results in decarbonising the electricity sector, where 31% of electricity is produced from renewable sources and more than half comes from low-carbon technologies.
I would like to replicate the success of decarbonisation of electricity in the gas sector. Natural gas constitutes almost one quarter of the EU’s energy mix. So this is a significant challenge.
While the role of gas in the transition is up to each Member State to decide upon, the EU can and should contribute to cleaning up the gas sector. I will work on creating an environment where clean gases can have a significant presence in the EU gas sector.
A forward-looking, modern, secure and smart energy infrastructure will be key in delivering the Green Deal. Fit-for-purpose infrastructure is the backbone of the EU energy market, a precondition for large-scale deployment of renewables and the guarantee for our security of supply.
To ensure consistency with Europe’s climate neutrality objective and the Green Deal ambition, the Commission has already started to review the regulatory framework for energy infrastructure, through the TEN-E regulation, with the objective of presenting a proposal by the end of this year.
This updated framework should foster the use of innovative technologies and infrastructure, such as smart grids, hydrogen networks or carbon capture, storage and utilisation, energy storage and also enable sector integration.
We need a future-proof infrastructure policy for Europe. This requires upgrading some existing infrastructure and assets, to ensure they are fit for purpose and climate resilient.
I also intend to present a strategy on offshore renewable energy. It will support the ambitious deployment and integration of offshore wind and ocean renewable energies across the EU. The strategy will address all the opportunities and challenges linked to this unprecedented large-scale development, such as impact on energy grids and markets, management of maritime space and industrial policy dimensions.
This is a sector where the EU is a true global leader today; we must build on this strong position.
Research and innovation are crucial for our success. We need to bring about the cost reduction, upscaling and market acceptance of new technological solutions. In this context, we are working on the development of a Clean Energy R&I Outlook and on the creation of a Clean Energy R&I Investment Alliance with the private sector.
In order to make the Green Deal happen, I have been tasked to ensure the full and timely implementation of the Clean Energy for all Europeans package.
I can confirm that we have received the Final National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) from 18 Member States. 9 Member States have submitted their national Long-Term Strategies. We are in touch with Member States that have not yet submitted their plans and I am going to write to the relevant ministers to remind them of their obligations.
NECPs are an important tool for achieving our energy and climate targets, but we need to have all the plans to use this tool properly.
My services are now analysing the different plans, with a view to presenting a comprehensive assessment of the overall level of ambition by the middle of the year. If the ambition is not sufficient, I will propose additional measures at the EU level to support Member States.
This analysis should also feed into the process of increasing climate ambition and support a comprehensive plan to reduce emissions to a least 50% and towards 55% in a reasonable way by 2030. Every sector of course will have to contribute, including energy.
We will carefully assess in the coming months what is the most cost-effective way of achieving our increased ambition, including whether we will need to revise the targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Let me close with a few words about the international dimension. There is no better test case for our ambition to be a geopolitical Commission than the energy field. The EU accounts for only 9% of the global emissions. If we do not bring our strategic partners with us, our isolated effort would be vain.
I was at the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) General Assembly in Abu Dhabi last week, and I took part in a number of meetings – both bilateral and open sessions. One thing was absolutely clear. The Green Deal was the focus of attention.
The decisions we will take in Europe in the next few years will strongly influence the way in which the rest of the world responds to the challenge of climate change.
With this new strategy, we are truly setting a benchmark worldwide.
It is crucial that we fully align our external action with our domestic climate ambition.
Therefore, I will fully support the development of a green agenda for the Western Balkans and place a greater emphasis on cooperation with Africa, in particular our Southern Neighborhood. I will also strengthen our network of bilateral energy dialogues and relations, using them to export our energy standards, rules and technologies to partner countries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I hope this has given you a broad overview of the different dossiers that we are working on in the framework of the Green Deal. I will of course be happy to reply to your questions. However, we are still in the beginning of the road and before we put forward our proposals, a lot of work needs to be done and many discussions have to take place – including with you today and in the months to come.