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Shale part of EU energy union plan

The European Commission foresees an important role for shale in achieving EU energy security, the climate and energy commissioner suggested on Friday as he outlined his energy union plan.

The Commission will publish a policy paper on promoting domestic energy sources, including progress on shale gas, as part of its new energy security strategy, Miguel Arias Cañete told a ministerial conference on the energy union in Riga.

The gas imports expected from the Southern Corridor at the end of the decade to diversify supplies will be offset by declining domestic production “unless the EU succeeds in developing shale gas”, he said.

The Commission will also table a new renewable energy policy package after consultation with interested parties, Mr Cañete said. In October, EU leaders agreed a target of sourcing at least 27% of Europe’s energy from renewables by 2030, but the target is only binding at EU level, prompting criticism from the renewables industry and green groups that it would be difficult to enforce.

Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič, who is in charge of elaborating the energy union concept, added that the current low oil and gas prices present a “golden opportunity” to encourage EU countries to cut “costly public financial support to fossil fuels” and invest in low-carbon technologies instead.

Mr Cañete also hinted at a greater focus on energy efficiency saying that EU energy policy should be led by an “efficiency first” principle. This would entail first looking at whether there are cost-effective measures to reduce energy use before importing more gas, which is an approach green NGOs have been advocating.

Other EU efficiency initiatives will include revisions of existing EU directives, a new strategy on heating and cooling and promotion of electro-mobility, the Commissioner said.

He also promised that the Commission would seek to create “the ideal framework” to help insulate buildings. This was welcomed by trade body Eurima, which called on the Commission to reinforce existing legislation with a new framework “including financial back-up from the strategic investment package of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker”.

The energy union strategy paper, together with a work plan for the mandate of the current Commission, is due to be published on 25 February.

Issue 39