Joint article by Mme Delphine Batho, Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, and M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, published in Les Echos
Europe came into existence because of energy 60 years ago. The first European community was that of coal and steel, the ECSC, quickly followed by Euratom. The six founding nations then understood the importance of the energy issue and its potential as a force for European integration.
The time has come to reconnect with this founding intuition in order to build a European energy policy commensurate with the challenges of the 21st century. If the current trend continues, global energy demand could in fact double by 2050. In Europe, we would then depend on imports by up to 90%! This is why several European countries have, like France, committed themselves to the energy transition path and are taking up the challenge of developing renewable energy.
These challenges exist on a continental scale. The response must be European. In this spirit, France intends to propose to her partners a European energy policy with several goals: the environment, energy saving and efficiency; controlling energy prices – key to European growth and reindustrialization; industry, because networks of excellence in renewable and decarbonized energies are crucial to success with the energy transition; security and sovereignty, at a time when global competition for resources is intensifying; and a social purpose, to create highly-qualified jobs and guarantee reasonable tariff conditions for both households and businesses.
In order for Europe to become the world number one in renewable energy, massive investment is necessary. In the next 18 months, we must be able to identify precise investment needs, in order to mobilize all the financing – available and to be created – for major infrastructure projects. We shall also have to boost specific research and innovation programmes in those sectors.
On the industrial front, we shall have to assert the value of sectors in which we excel. We shall propose a joint discussion about forming European renewable energy champions, based on the outstanding companies we have in this sector: [those concerned with] electric vehicles, solar energy, marine energy, the wood industry and energy efficiency companies, etc. Let us reflect on the conditions allowing industrial successes on a par with Airbus in the aerospace industry to emerge. We are also proposing to establish a right of access to reasonably priced energy through the setting-up of a genuine public service guaranteeing universal energy access. Socially oriented tariff mechanisms will be drawn up to take account of the most vulnerable consumers.
As the world’s leading energy importer, the European Union must, of course, try to reduce its dependence. But in order to regain its role as a key player on the world market, it must also create a European foreign policy for energy. Energy cooperation must play its part in the strategic partnerships we are building with our main partners.
These proposals will be brought up in the great national debate on energy in France, but they should also be discussed among Europeans in the coming months. It is up to us to deliver them swiftly by drawing, among other things, on Franco-German cooperation, in the run-up to the European Council meeting that will be devoted to energy next May. In energy, Europe may find the driving and unifying force that was its foundation 60 years ago./.
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