A real single market for energy is a must!

Pernille Weiss MEP

Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) From the very beginning, the European single market has been an important engine for both growth, peace, and development. Over the years, it has grown larger and more influential. Goods, money, and human resources cross borders guaranteeing supply, quality and competitive prices. The single market has really proven its worth, and for this reason, it seems peculiar that the market does not cover energy, given energy is a commodity. 

The lack of a single market for energy is a huge problem. Unfortunately, and due to several different reasons, it will take some time before we can create a harmonised single market for energy. The goal of which is lower prices, heightened supply security, and a healthy market, offering multiple clean and green energy options, primarily produced in the EU. The final point is extremely important. The self-sufficiency of the energy market should be ranked at the same level as a self-sufficient food or vaccines/pharmaceutical sector. This is even more relevant now when we recognise a world outside of the EU that is less friendly and cooperative, and we have witnessed globalisation with limits. 

We need to identify and remove the barriers if we are to accelerate progress toward a single market for energy. The war in Ukraine and the global geo-political shifts demand that we protect ourselves and the Europe of today and for generations to come. 

What are the obstacles?

Europeans have a long history of innovation and development – we’re good at it.  In a positive sense, we are “eternal doubters”, constantly trying to make things better, easier, faster, and cheaper. We believe in open research and equal conditions that foster competition, ensuring market mechanisms work efficiently. This has helped create the Europe of today. We should use the same toolbox moving forward. Yes, we have fostered new energy technologies that are both better for the climate and the environment; wind, solar, nuclear energy, hydrogen, CO2 storage and usage, Power2X, and much more. The issue is that these are not yet sufficient or efficient enough.     

Often our focus is on single projects, which, unfortunately, are not correctly connected to the energy sector as a whole in member states nor between them. The pace of approval for critical infrastructure, regardless of the size of the project, is too slow.  It could be the approval of a single land-based windmill or the import of waste from neighboring countries without modern incinerators to transform waste into cheap energy.  

We have a tendency to send diverse contradictory political signals, often unintentionally, resulting in judicial instability and unpredictability. Moreover, we have limited capabilities to develop investment projects in the energy sector that European investors, for example, the Danish pension companies, find attractive. As a result, investment funds leave the EU for energy projects elsewhere. What a loss!

The message from the EPP group and me to the Commission and the Council are: Clean up! And while we are at it, develop a well-functioning plan to attract investors to fund fast-track projects. There is no time to waste.

What is the use of building large wind farms, energy island clusters, large Power-to-X-plants, and so forth, if the clean and sustainable energy being produced cannot be accessed in the European market due to a lack of infrastructure; pipes, storage capacity, harbors, and transportation routes? If we do not strengthen our capacity and infrastructure, energy prices will remain high and the security of supply low. We will not reach the goals in the Green Deal if we do not support both people and businesses in choosing the right energy and support them to use it wisely. 

cleaning up is not enough. The digital transition is a very important missing link in the green transition. We need to digitalise the energy sector more radically and harmonise across the EU if we want to reach the climate goals and create a true and efficient single market for energy. As I review and interpret insights from both digital developers and the energy sector, it is abundantly clear that there is a large digital potential in the sector that is relatively easy to exploit.

In conclusion, we must remember to use energy wisely. No matter the price or the amount of climate-friendly energy, responsible and efficient energy consumption has positive environmental, social, and cultural impacts. The message succinctly is:  clean up, accelerate the pace, and plug into digital electricity to lighten the process so we can realise the reality of a single market for energy as fast as possible. 

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Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
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Pernille Weiss is a Danish politician, and businesswoman who was elected as a Conservative People's Party Member of the European Parliament in the 2019 European parliamentary election in Denmark.