Keep calm and build the Energy Union

Source: M. (Maroš) Sefčovič i, published on Thursday, July 23 2015.

Some 1,300 years ago, the Venerable Bede referred to Britain as the last island before the end of earth. He was wrong; not only because America became known to Europeans after, but also because in many ways the UK is no longer an island. In fact, thanks to its infrastructure, the UK has never been better connected to continental Europe. When it comes to its energy, the Energy Union will allow it further integrate into the European energy market.

Having grown up behind the Iron Curtain where Western culture was much limited, you'd expect pop icons like the Beatles, James Bond or Sherlock Holmes to be absent from my childhood. But due to its great appeal, the British culture has been widely consumed around the world, even in Communist countries. In fact, if you recognise the reference in this post's title (which has hung in my office since I entered my current position), that's also because of the strength of the British culture where even a public information poster from the 1930s can be immortalised into a pop item in the 2000's.

I might be stating the obvious, but it's important to recognise the significance of global British influence in the context of the Energy Union. Why? Because when addressing energy and climate issues, Europe's ability to cooperate with the rest of the world is critical for ensuring the security of our energy supply, international cooperation on innovation of renewable energies and efficiency technologies, and of course for achieving an ambitious, binding and global climate agreement. The UK, as a key player in the EU, can make the EU's voice heard precisely because it is globally well-regarded and highly influential.

At the same time, the EU and the Energy Union in particular, can also amplify British ideas and interests. When British policy innovations are implemented across the entire EU market - they can reach far greater results, especially when it comes to addressing climate change; a key commitment of both the incumbent and previous British governments. Take for example the EU emissions trading system (ETS). Few people know that the UK pioneered the first multi-industry carbon trading system in the world, back in 2002. The following year, the EU adopted its own carbon trading system which became the largest in the world (currently being strengthened and reformed as communicated last week). In fact, the concept is so successful that other global economies, like China, Canada, and Korea, are looking into adopting it as well.

The magnifying effect between the EU's single market project, and the UK's pragmatism and global influence - was my main message when visiting London as part of the Energy Union Tour. My visit was short but very rich in discussions. I had the pleasure of meeting Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Amber Rudd and Minister for Europe, David Lidington. Fortunately, Prime Minster David Cameron was also able to join us when we discussed the tangible benefits the UK would see from the Energy Union and the great added value it could bring to it.

When addressing the House of Commons and the House of Lords, I was also very impressed by the level of knowledge of and interest in the Energy Union. This did not surprise me; I remember from my previous position as Vice President for Inter-Institutional Relations the high level of engagement and especially the quality of input the Commission received from the Parliament of the UK. And I couldn't agree more with the House of Lords' EU Committee's Report: "No country is an Energy Island". Or at least no country should be one. That is why the EU identified a list of Projects of Common Interest which will help connect the UK's infrastructure to that of Belgium, France, Ireland and Norway. This will allow the UK to reach the 10% interconnection target by 2020, benefiting costumers on both sides of the Channel.

Finally, as I try to do in each of the stops on my Tour, I met with other stakeholders: businesses, transmission system operators, regulators, consumer associations, other NGOs, academia, and in the case of London also with financial actors who can invest in the sector. We discussed important issues of high relevant to these participants, such as: consumer engagement, energy bills, vulnerable consumers, smart energy services, innovation, investments and diversification of energy sources.

Overall, there was very good energy throughout my visit and high expectations, from all sides, on how we can continue empowering each other.