***Check against delivery***
Thank you Fatih, Barbara,
I would also like to start by thanking Fatih for the opportunity to be here for the presentation of the IEA 10-point plan.
I remember when, almost two years ago, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Birol and the IEA were the first to point to investment in clean energy technologies as the best focus for future recovery plans. The IEA showed a direction, and offered solid analysis and data to back this up.
This was extremely helpful for us at the European Commission, at a time in which we were preparing our Next Generation EU proposal, and we were forming a consensus around putting the green transition front and centre of our recovery plan for Europe.
Today’s 10-point plan can play a similar role in the European debate on energy security.
The Russian unprovoked attack on Ukraine has brought war to Europe. The people of Ukraine are fighting heroically for their lives, their country and their freedom. And Europe must stand by them.
The EU and its Member States are fully committed to helping Ukraine, including on ensuring their security of supply. I have been in constant contact with energy minister Galushchenko and in our calls, security of supply is at the top of our list when talking about energy.
On Monday, the extraordinary Energy Council sent a strong message of unity and solidarity with Ukraine.
Member States have underlined the importance for the European transmission operators to enable the emergency synchronisation of the Ukrainian power grid with the European Continental Grid, ensuring the necessary technical safeguards. This is important for maintaining the stability of the system and providing the Ukrainian people with electricity. Ukraine has also asked for specific help in the energy sector – it needs diesel, petrol, jet fuel, coal, generators. We are coordinating closely with our Member States to provide this support.
But this conflict is not only a tragedy for Ukraine and Europe. It must be a moment of awareness, a moment of awakening about our energy security.
The IEA has long been very firm and very outspoken when talking about the reasons behind the surging energy prices – months before the war broke out. They warned that Russian gas flows to Europe were much lower than usual despite high prices, and that this unusual behaviour was not helping the market to rebalance.
The war in Ukraine has made our dependence on Russian gas supply – and its risks – painfully clear. We cannot let any third country destabilise our energy markets or influence our energy choices. This is where the IEA and the European Commission look eye to eye. We must set a priority objective to significantly reduce our dependence on Russian energy supply.
The IEA 10-point plan contains a number of concrete avenues that one can take to reduce dependence on Russian gas. In the short term, this comes through diversification. We have already seen a steep increase of LNG volumes to Europe in January and February. LNG imports are now around 10 bcm per month. Like the IEA Plan suggests, we have been reaching out to partners all over the world and this is paying dividends.
Gas storage is another important element of the IEA’s plan. If current trends continue, the level of storage in Europe in April will be much lower than in previous years. We need to start immediately to secure sufficient gas storage for next winter, bringing it to or close to 90%. The Commission will propose concrete measures next week in this regard.
Beyond the short-term, ultimately, the best and the only lasting solution is the Green Deal – boosting renewables and energy efficiency as fast as technically possible.
We are still far too dependent on fossil-fuel imports; but boosting home-grown renewables help us out of this trap. When we look at the quarterly report on European electricity markets published this January, we can see that in the third quarter of 2021 the share of renewables reached 37%, beating fossil fuels so fully implementing our Fit for 55 proposals alone would lower our gas consumption by 23%, around 82 bcm of gas, by 2030.
And renewables, energy efficiency and building renovation, are expected to drive future job creation also in Europe. So, the Green Deal agenda is not only our climate proposal, but also one for economic growth and for energy security.
Next week, the Commission will propose a pathway for Europe to reduce our dependence from Russian gas as soon as possible and accelerate the progress towards a clean, secure and competitive energy system.
The IEA’s analysis is a very timely and valuable contribution to this work. I congratulate once again Dr Birol for his leadership and ability to unite the IEA members around common goals.
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is in the current situation that all likeminded countries work closely together, remain united and put their collective strength behind policies that are on the right side of history.