It is from a certain viewpoint astonishing how fast long term scenario’s can be hit sideways by actual developments. Less than a year ago the European Commission presented the new EU framework on climate and energy. The printer so to say is still copying the proposals, that have to be analyzed by each member state before a decisive consensus can be reached. It is obvious that sanctions against Russia as a reaction on the annexation of Crimea involving a decrease of gas and oil imports influence every energy plan that on the table in the coming years. But first let me recall what the pillars of the framework for 2030 are.
A reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40% below the 1990 level, an EU-wide binding target for renewable energy of at least 27%, renewed ambitions for energy efficiency policies, a new governance system and a set of new indicators to ensure a competitive and secure energy system..
The EU targets and ambitions are clear. Being a mosaic of autonomous nations every EU member state will follow its own strategy related to the national composition of its energy supply. May be each country will meet the targets or at least will declare to try, but another major issue has already developed and cast doubt. Germany is one of the leading countries concerning renewable energy. The results are impressive, but the success of wind and solar energy is destabilizing the electricity supply, leading to a volatile sequence of changing volumes. One aspect is the need - denied by nobody - for a very flexible back-up source which used to be natural gas. But cheap coal has driven out more expensive gas and not for a limited period of time. Gas plants are closed down, while coal plants are erected with increasing CO2-emissions as a negative consequence. One may expect that the return on investment will make the new coal generation last, putting an additional burden on the 2030-targets. The so-called Energiewende and its consequences on the energy as well as the money market bring doubt in the hearts of other EU-states and henceforth reinforce the choice for national solutions. Whatever the choice for each member state a lot of money is required. Obviously this is a tough task in the actual economical situation. Climbing out of the crisis demands more production and more use of energy leading to more emissions. So the only solution for combining emission reduction and economical growth seems to be a less polluting way of production. Altogether this represents a Herculean task.
The Crimea affair puts a heavy burden on this scheme. If the EU decides to lower the Russian imports one could come to the conclusion that the execution of the whole plan have to be accelerated. The disastrous downing of the Malaysian airplane complicates the matter in a most unforeseen way. It could lead to an immediate collision between Russia and the EU concerning gas deliveries. But the timeframe is not consistent with a sound consideration of every aspect and consequence. Will sanctions in the energy department bear fruit the EU will have to act yesterday. That is out of the question for many a reason.
Ukraine literally means the end of Russia
There are contractual obligations, the security of supply must be assured, alternative suppliers are not waiting around the corner and as far as the investments in renewables is concerned the EU lacks money, at least in the short and middle term. And then there is the most tricky consequence of any sanction whatsoever some EU-members in the East are almost totally depending on Russian fuels. Recently some of them enforced the cooperation with Russia by new contracts. The dilemma could not be more complicated. Ironically the word Ukraine means being the end of Russian, a point beyond which a thing –in this case Russia- does not continue, a regional extremity.
The EU- power network is interwoven, but still needs to be better tuned and expanded. The supply of energy and economics share a global nature. The fabric of the EU as a political and financial structure requires strengthening in order to cope with all these major circumstances. The answer lies in combining Scylla-autonomy and Charibdis-centralization. But is the EU-strong enough the complete the passage?