EU aims for more diverse energy sector

Europe aims to protect the vulnerable from energy trouble on its borders.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Feb. 16, 2016 at 8:01 AM
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BRUSSELS, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- A European energy strategy aims to counter geopolitical threats to supplies while at the same time considering global climate initiatives, a commissioner said.

The European Commission presented an energy security package in Brussels that would equip the region with the tools necessary to transition to a low-carbon future while ensuring the region is secured from potential supply interruptions of conventional energy options like natural gas.

"Today's proposals are about a reliable, competitive and flexible system in which energy flows across borders and consumers reap the benefits," Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said in a statement. "They are about standing together to protect the most vulnerable."

Geopolitical rifts between Russia and Ukraine in 2006 and again in 2009 left European gas consumers in the cold for several winter weeks when Moscow closed the gas spigots through Ukraine. Europe gets about a quarter of its gas needs met by Russia, though about 80 percent of that gas runs through Soviet-era pipelines in Ukraine.

With European members looking outside bloc borders for new energy supplies, the commission said new laws are in place that require those countries in the European Union to notify Brussels about energy agreements before they're concluded.

"The political tensions on our borders are a sharp reminder that this problem [of dependency] will not just go away," Canete said.

Moscow and Kiev have remained at odds since political upheaval in Ukraine in late 2014.

Eurostat, the statistics office of the European Union, said member states relied on imports for 53.4 percent of their energy needs in 2014, the last full year for which the office has data.

Data show the level of dependency on foreign reserves was higher than in 1990, but lower than peak levels reached in 2008.

On the type of supplies, the European Commission said natural gas offers a bridge to a low-carbon future, particularly liquefied natural gas, which carries less geopolitical risk than natural gas because it relies less on pipeline infrastructure.

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