Brussels – With the growing concern about the reliability of Russian gas supplies to the EU in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine, Energy Commissioner Oettinger has consistently prioritised the voices of the fossil fuel industry in discussions on the EU’s European Energy Security Strategy. On May 5, Commissioner Oettinger hosted an “EU Energy Security Conference”, inviting only the up-, mid and downstream oil & gas industry to share their views. Representatives of the renewables and energy efficiency industries were not invited. Neither were representatives of civil society groups. In doing so, Commissioner Oettinger goes against the letter and the spirit of the European Council conclusions, which expressly state that “[m]oderating energy demand through enhanced energy efficiency should be the first step, which will also contribute to other energy and climate objectives”. Food & Water Europe fails to see how an exclusive focus on the EU’s oil and gas sector will deliver clean, secure and affordable energy to EU citizens and business. Moreover, promoting a bigger and more diverse gas supply – with more pipelines, LNG terminals and shale gas – risks locking the EU into a continued reliance on fossil fuels, particularly at a time of sagging gas demand. More renewables and energy efficiency, particularly in the heating & cooling sector, must be at the core of any strategy to reduce the EU’s import dependency.
“Import dependency depends on two variables, supply and demand. Steering the debate towards a focus on the supply-side only serves the corporate agenda of Big Oil & Gas”, said Food & Water Europe Director Geert De Cock. “Commissioner Oettinger is completely ignoring solutions that would reduce the demand for natural gas in the EU”.
About 40% of the EU’s annual gas consumption is used for the heating and cooling of buildings. By ignoring this fact, the European Commission has made it impossible to come up with meaningful and cost-effective answers on the EU’s growing import dependency in the long term.
An ambitious energy efficiency target of 40% for 2030 – as called for by the European Parliament – will result in a ~ 20% drop in annual gas consumption. Increased use of renewables, particularly in the heating & cooling sector, could further reduce the EU’s reliance on gas imports by another ~ 10%. Another 8-15% in additional gas savings can be expected from electricity savings, if renewables continue to increase their share in the energy mix. In conclusion, investing in renewables and energy efficiency can generate gas savings of ~ 40%, exceeding all gas imports from Russia. Such a strategy will also have added benefits in terms of climate targets, developing cutting edge-technology and jobs.
For Food & Water Europe, reducing the EU’s gas consumption is a more realistic and cost-effective strategy than replacing gas supplies from Russia with alternative supplies of gas, be it Norway, new pipelines, more LNG or domestic shale gas production. Developing these alternative supplies of gas will be extremely difficult and time-consuming, fail to address security of supply concerns and come at great expense.
Contact: Geert Decock tel. +32 (0)2 893 10 45, mobile +32 (0)484 629.491, gdecock(at)fweurope.org