The Energy Union has often been compared to the Coal and Steel Community of the 1950; both highly ambitious projects of merging European energy markets therefore contributing to the European integration project at large. But one major difference between the two is the fact that the Energy Union is not confined to the EU only. In fact, the Energy Union has a very important external dimension, addressing our energy relations with our partners. In this respect, Norway plays a strategic role.
In this respect, Norway plays a strategic role. Situated at our immediate borders and as part of the same European Economic Area, Norway is a reliable, environmentally-conscious partner who doesn't only export its energy to Europe but can also store it very effectively. I therefore referred to it, in my recent visit to the country, as a giant battery which can energise Europe when our own production from renewable sources needs balancing. I would add that it's a battery with only pluses…
Against the ongoing turmoil on the global markets, Norway is not only the EU's second largest supplier of natural gas but has proven to be a highly reliable one. And there is no reason to expect that to change given that only one third of Norway’s estimated gas resources have been produced over the last 45 years. Another important aspect is the fact that as a member of the European Economic Area, Norway has been doing an excellent job in transposing EU legislation on its energy market - making our trade even easier and smoother.
From Paris to Oslo
While being a major gas and oil exporter, Norway has shown great environmental responsibility in its own market as well as on international fora. This can be manifested by its CO2 taxes, the fact that its electricity system is almost entirely produced from renewable sources, and the significant market share of electric cars. The Norwegian government has also been very proactive in the run-up to the Paris Agreement, and I very much welcomed its decision to align with the EU position and to join the 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are also highly advanced, with further research and demonstration well-supported by the government. In fact, the only large-scale European CCS facilities in operation Norway's Sleipner and Snøhvit. During my last visit, Minister Tord Lien had the courtesy to take me on board and present to me how they work.
In recent years we have been achieving better and growing inter-connectivity between Norway and EU Member States. In addition to the existing electricity interconnector to Sweden, Finland Denmark and two additional electricity subsea cables linking Norway to Germany and UK are planned; the latter consisting of 700km deep see power cable. Norway is also an important player in the North Seas Countries' Offshore Grid Initiative (NSCOGI), a strategic project on which we are working closely with the Dutch Presidency.
But the inter-connectivity of Norway with the European system goes further. Norway's hydro power reservoir capacity constitutes half of Europe's total. It is therefore the perfect supplement to our transition to renewable energies. On a day when the sun doesn't shine or the wind doesn't blow within our own market, we can receive energy from Norwegian lakes within a matter of seconds.
I would like to thank our Norwegian partners for their tremendous contribution to the Energy Union and its threefold objective, ensuring our energy is secure, competitive, and sustainable. I have no doubt we will see our relations further tightening in the future.