Our progress in the fight against climate change is unstoppable.
- Vice-President Šefčovič -
Citizens' Dialogue in Madrid with Vice-President Šefčovič - 16 March 2016
Vice-President Šefčovič was in Madrid on 16 March 2016 to kick-off his 2nd Energy Union Tour with a Citizens' Dialogue. He was accompanied on stage by Álvaro Nadal, Minister for Energy of Spain, and Javier Solana, President of ESADEgeo Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics. Vice-President Šefčovič began by stating that he had started his tour in Spain because it is a pioneer country in the field of energy, in areas such as renewables.
Energy infrastructure and interconnections were at the centre of the debate. Minister Álvaro Nadal brought up the topic, saying that the Iberian Peninsula is still an "energy island", and that Spain was therefore not part of a real internal market for energy. Javier Solana backed this argument by saying that this winter Spain had, for the first time, to import shale gas from the US as it could not get it from France. He asked Vice-President Šefčovič to do something about this "European problem".
Geopolitics was also broadly discussed by participants, who were worried about EU dependency on fossil fuels from politically unstable countries. Participants asked about EU plans on diversification of transit routes from Russia and on the new gas fields in Eastern Mediterranean countries such as Cyprus, Israel and Egypt.
Vice-President Šefčovič agreed about the big role geopolitics is playing in shaping energy policy: " When EU leaders set energy policy as one of the EU's main political priorities, energy efficiency, climate policy and competitiveness, energy poverty, the untapped innovation potential, all had a big weight behind the need for an energy union. But the final push was the geopolitical situation. We have to be more assertive in energy diplomacy, more united when taking energy decisions."
Another participant raised the question of the impact of the new US administration policies both in terms of economic impact to the EU and of the future of climate change negotiations.
Vice-President Šefčovič replied that he had met the new US secretary for Energy, Rick Perry, and was convinced that "the US knows that it is important to be at the Paris table." He also said that the world has turned to the EU for leadership in the fight against climate change. "We have to embrace the role of global leaders", he said.
Participants also asked for "more and better" energy efficiency at EU level. One participant raised the question of energy efficiency in buildings, saying that most of them acted as "radiators". High energy prices, EU investments in energy infrastructure, self-consumption and capacity mechanisms in response to peaks of consumption were other topics discussed during the Dialogue.