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Energy Prices: President von der Leyen sets out relief measures for consumers and businesses and emphasizes importance of green energy transition

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Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) has addressed the European Parliament Plenary on the preparation of the European Council meeting of 21-22 October, which focused on the recent spike in energy prices. Recalling that we import 90% of the gas we consume, the president underlined: “Europe today is too reliant on gas and too dependent on gas imports. This makes us vulnerable. The answer has to do with diversifying our suppliers. But also keeping the role of natural gas as transitional fuel and, crucially, with speeding up the transition to clean energy. The European Green Deal is in the mid- and long-term a pillar of European energy sovereignty in the 21st century.” 

She also described the measures that can be deployed to address the situation in the short term, through the toolbox presented last week: “Our priority is to give relief to vulnerable families and businesses. Some measures can be taken very swiftly, under current EU rules. This includes relief for businesses – especially SMEs – through state aid, targeted support to consumers, and cuts to energy taxes and levies. This is where Member States can act very quickly.” 

Through the EU's recovery programme NextGenerationEU, €36 billion has already been earmarked for clean energy, from hydrogen to offshore wind power. Only “true European teamwork” will be able to achieve this, the president said. Looking ahead to the climate summit at the end of the month, she added: “The upcoming COP26 in Glasgow will be the moment for the whole world to speed up action. Because the world is not yet on track to match our commitments under the Paris Agreement. So much more needs to be done to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees over pre-industrial levels. The European Union will bring to Glasgow the highest level of ambition. We do it for Europe. We do it for our planet. And we do it for all future generations.” Read the full speech in EnglishFrench and German, and watch it back here.

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Energy

Nine EU states oppose energy market overhaul in response to high prices

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Germany, Denmark and seven other EU countries have opposed overhauling the bloc's electricity market in response to high energy prices, a move they said could increase the cost of adding renewable energy to the system in the long run, ahead of a meeting of EU ministers today (2 December), writes Kate Abnett.

Energy ministers from the European Union's 27 member countries will meet on Thursday to debate their response to energy prices that surged to record levels in autumn as tight gas supplies collided with soaring demand in economies recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a joint statement, the nine countries urged the EU to stick with its current energy market design. Price caps or different systems of setting national power prices could discourage electricity trade between EU countries and undermine incentives to add low-cost renewable energy to the system in the long run, they said.

"We cannot support any measure that would represent a departure from the competitive principles of our electricity and gas market design," the countries said.

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"Deviating from these principles would undermine the cost-effective decarbonisation of our energy system, jeopardise affordability and risk security of supply."

The statement was signed by Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Latvia and the Netherlands.

EU countries have splintered over how to respond to high prices, with Spain and France among those seeking an overhaul of EU energy regulations. Madrid has led calls for EU countries to buy gas jointly to form strategic reserves.

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Other governments are wary of long-lasting regulatory reforms to respond to what they say could be short-term price spikes. Many EU countries have already introduced temporary measures, such as subsidies for households and tax breaks, to lower consumer bills.

While gas prices have retreated from the record highs recorded in early October, they are still relatively high in countries including the Netherlands, where prices began climbing again in recent weeks amid forecasts of a cold weather.

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Biodiversity

European Business and Nature Summit streamlining biodiversity into business

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Today (1 December), high-level policymakers and business leaders are gathering at the European Business & Nature Summit to scale up business action for nature ahead of the crucial UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in the spring of 2022. Organized by the EU [email protected] Platform of the European Commission and other partners, the summit aims to strengthen the growing movement of companies across Europe and beyond that are putting nature and people at the centre of their recovery strategies.

European Green Deal Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans said: “Whereas the climate crisis is treated with urgency, the biodiversity crisis and the threat of ecocide have not yet risen high enough on the global agenda. Businesses increasingly recognize the urgency to act and I call on them to be vocal about the risks of biodiversity loss. Restoring our relationship with nature will stave off economic losses, generate new jobs, and ensure a habitable planet for future generations.”

Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “Businesses are a crucial lever in the system-wide change that needs to happen if we are to have a stable climate and a living planet where everyone can thrive. I count on them to drive the ambition for a Global Biodiversity Framework to be agreed at Biodiversity COP15, with ramped up biodiversity funding and sufficient mainstreaming of biodiversity in all sectors.”

The summit features front-running businesses and financial institutions sharing experiences, best practice examples and initiatives that aim to integrate natural capital and biodiversity into corporate decision-making, and encourages others to join. The event invites new signatories to the Finance for Biodiversity Pledge calling on global leaders to reverse nature loss within this decade and committing to protect and restore biodiversity through their finance activities and investments. These new signatories will boost the group of 75 financial institutions representing €12 trillion assets. More information is in the news item.

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European Commission

Hydrogen: Europe's Industry rolling out hydrogen projects on massive scale

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The European Clean Hydrogen Alliance has announced a pipeline of projects that European industry is undertaking to roll out the European hydrogen economy on a large scale. Featuring over 750 projects, the pipeline is testimony to the size and dynamism of the European hydrogen industry. Projects range from clean hydrogen production to its use in industry, mobility, energy and buildings. They are located in all four corners of Europe. The objective of the project pipeline is to provide an overview of hydrogen projects, to promote the emergence of a European hydrogen industry by enabling networking and match-making, to profile projects and giving them visibility including with potential investors. 

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “Clean hydrogen plays a key role in the green transition of our European industry. Our recipe to support large-scale deployment of clean hydrogen technologies by 2030 consists of investment, a supportive regulatory framework, and fostering partnership between industry, governments and civil society. Through the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, we have developed a pipeline of innovative, viable investment projects along the hydrogen value chain, which we are publishing today. More than 600 projects are planned to enter operation by 2025. I am confident that these breakthrough innovations will help us to meet our climate change objectives, strengthen our industrial resilience and technological leadership, and contribute to job creation.”

The European Clean Hydrogen Alliance was set up by the Commission in July 2020, in support of the EU Hydrogen Strategy, with the objective to stimulate the roll out of clean hydrogen production and use in Europe. One of its main tasks is to develop an investment agenda and pipeline of investment projects presented today during the Hydrogen Forum. The Alliance also published a report identifying barriers to the deployment of clean hydrogen and possible mitigating measures. It currently has over 1500 members. The Alliance project pipeline is based on a collection of projects from members of the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance that were subsequently assessed by the Commission  against a set of well-defined criteria, including greenhouse gas emission reduction, minimum size and project maturity. The pipeline is searchable by project type, location, company and start date. More information on the Alliance here.

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