During the Energy Union Tour, I could see that all over our continent European companies bring life to one of my favourite messages of the Energy Union Strategy: that there is a strong business case for the transition to a low carbon economy.
Today, I met with some companies and investors, coming from a very wide range of economic sectors but sharing one common goal: to make their businesses more efficient and more sustainable. By sharing their experiences and concerns, they gave new, fresh inspiration for the State of the Energy Union that I will present in less than three weeks' time.
After all, why would companies care about the planet's climate? One company leader told me: 'because climate change costs us €300 million a year, for instance because of floods and crops losses'. Or why would companies pay so much attention to energy efficiency? 'Because the cost of energy is our second biggest cost, which we simply have to get under control'. 'And because the savings we make by improving our energy intensity, can be reinvested, creating more growth, and more jobs', added another one. Indeed, our Energy Union agenda makes 'business sense'.
That's what also the institutional investors have noticed. I was pleased to hear that the investment community takes the energy transition very seriously. Since a couple of months, more and more private money flows to low-carbon technologies. While in 2004, institutional investors invested some €300 million in renewable energy in Europe, this amount has increased to 6 billion euros this year. Indeed, our Energy Union agenda makes 'investment sense'.
Despite their very different background (finance, utilities, consumer goods, furniture, public transport, etc.), these companies were unanimous in what they expect from us, policy-makers: a robust governance framework that brings predictability, investors trust and transparency. 'Policy makers at the European or national level do not decide on or impose sustainable investments, they simply make them happen by setting the framework', was one of the messages I got. 'The biggest risk for investors? 'The political risk!', said another one. I couldn't express more eloquently why we're working so hard on a robust Energy Union governance system!
Talking to sustainable companies is like getting a glimpse of the future. With major airports investing in how to better manage the grid; with small-scale consumers getting real time feedback on their energy consumption; with companies running for 100% on clean energy; with public transport crossing a city like Paris with buses that will no longer emit any CO2 or particles; with companies avoiding thousands of truck rides by better logistical planning (or by transporting beer by boat!).
Companies that embark on a road towards a low-carbon, energy efficient future are a source of inspiration and mobilisation inside, but also outside Europe. They are perfect ambassadors for our Energy Union Strategy. I encourage them to lead by showing example, and look forward to continue to engage with them, for instance in the margins of the Paris COP21 negotiations. I count on these 'European Energy Union Business Ambassadors' to become strong allies in our challenge to bring about the low-carbon economy of the future, one of the key dimensions of the Energy Union Strategy.