Guest blogpost by Jaakko Silpola, Coordinator of the Energy from Peatland Sector Group.
The struggling EU economy and the Ukraine-Russia gas dispute are not temporary issues. Many EU countries still suffer from unemployment and gas disputes remain a chronic threat to the European energy system and its entire economic development.
One crisis after another, the European Union has been trying to manage the inherent instability fuelled by the increasing energy dependence on a single external supplier. Two figures are revealing: the European Union imports more than 50% of its energy at a cost of around 400 billion Euros. Costly and politically risky, the EU needs to re-think its energy policy immediately. Greater energy self-sufficiency would also be a way to provide more job opportunities and support national economies.
The peat industry we represent is fully aware of the challenges that the EU energy system is facing. EU’s electricity prices are high and industrial competitiveness is at stake. Energy poverty is a constant risk for both consumers and industries. Europe has no time to spare and its leaders need to implement a coherent and security-of-supply driven policy in a well-integrated internal energy market.
Launched by the European Commission’s Vice-President Maros Sefcovic in February 2015, the Energy Union Package should be considered as a real game changer to address these challenges and build a strong and domestic-driven energy policy for and by European citizens and industries. The Energy Union needs however to better assess energy needs including urban, rural and industrial demand. It also has to enhance Member States’ policies to promote local indigenous energy sources. Flexibility to define and choose energy sources at the national level should continue to be the guiding principle and main pillar of the Energy Union.
For instance, Finland underlined in its Energy Union position paper in the energy security discussion, that Finland emphasises the use of biomass and the impact of advanced biofuels on the improvement of energy security as native sources of energy, cost efficiency and competitiveness in energy efficiency as well as the significance of peat as domestic fuel that can be utilised regionally.
Within this context, EPAGMA Energy companies are continuously seeking to make a significant contribution to EU energy objectives. Our industry has the experience and determination to provide affordable indigenous energy sources that secures supply for more than 2 million EU citizens in important cities and rural areas. Moreover, energy-peat is an example of decentralised energy production in countries such as Finland, Ireland, Sweden and the Baltics region where the amount of domestic resources is limited.
We welcome several action points put forward in the Energy Union Package. We strongly believe that regional cooperation coupled with clear support from the European Commission can facilitate further internal market integration by adapting to regional energy needs, in line with the subsidiarity principle.
The years ahead will not be easy. The solution to address our most important challenges is however in our hands – in the EU itself. We need to be ready to use our own resources, think local, and develop a long term regulatory framework to enhance security of supply and competitiveness.