Friday, 10 October 2008

Speaking at the College of Europe in Bruges

Just as EU energy ministers were meeting in Luxembourg to agree the internal energy market package I was up at the College of Europe in Bruges taking part in a lecture with the students there on EU energy policy. I was there to give them a perspective from Brussels on the external aspects of EU energy policy and having come through the various votes in the Parliament’s Energy and Environment Committees on the green energy package as well as earlier votes on the internal energy market package there was much to discuss with them. I was invited two years ago to speak with the students not long after the Commission had published its consultation (‘green’) paper on a new European energy strategy. So I was delighted to be invited back.

There was much interest in the Commission’s forthcoming proposals for the third and last element of the EU energy package with the long awaited publication on 13 November of its Second Strategic Energy Review. This will form the basis of the second energy action plan (2010-2012) which EU leaders are due to adopt at the meeting of the European Council in March 2010.

The EU’s Second Strategic Energy Review will focus on the whole issue of security of supply and developing the external aspects of the EU’s energy policy and will be accompanied by an action plan on external energy security to consider the challenges the EU is likely to face between 2020 and 2050, the launch of a consultation (Green Paper) on Trans-European Energy Networks, a Communication on Offshore Wind, where the Commission supports the setting up a working group to prepare a project for a North Sea offshore network, as well as legislation on energy efficiency, transparency and use of emergency oil stocks and gas security of supply through the setting up of a solidarity mechanism.

To speed up the implementation of the strategic energy technologies plan (SET-plan), the Commission will also be publishing shortly a Communication on funding low carbon intensity technologies.

There is much here that is likely to be of great interest to Scotland not least EU plans to give greater support to offshore wind. With the EU looking for alternatives and at ways in which Europe can connect up its energy supplies through an internal energy market and better cross-border links and storage facilities inside the EU, creating a European offshore supergrid linking up the west coast of Scotland, the north and east coasts of Northern Ireland, the Irish Sea and the west coast of the Republic of Ireland offers massive potential for exporting clean, green energy to the rest of mainland Europe.

President Barroso in a speech in Brussels yesterday made it clear that he wanted to see a real collective approach to upgrade key infrastructure that is essential to maintaining uninterrupted supplies and which would enable a more diversified energy supply to be brought into the EU.

This comes in the wake of a report published by the International Energy Agency last month on the EU energy policy which underlined the need for the EU to better coordinate its external relations with the world’s key suppliers and producers so it can use its full weight on the international stage.

Ultimate authority over national energy policies and national energy resources has to remain in the hands of the appropriate domestic authorities. Certainly, I want to see an Independent Scotland able to control its own energy future but where cooperation and coordination with our European partners makes sense and could be beneficial then we should examine it.

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