EU HAS WIDENED
European Union energy chiefs on Monday sought to galvanise efforts to create a single European energy market with a set of accords on closer power and gas ties while disunity simmers over the finer detail of implementing goals for a new decade of greener fuel.
The European Commission, the EU executive, has used the political crisis with the bloc's biggest energy supplier, Russia, to focus on completing an energy union based on rationalised connections across the 28-member bloc to share fuel and curb the need for imports.
The grand plan is also meant to harness efforts to lower carbon emissions as France readies to host United Nations climate talks late this year.
At a meeting of energy ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, 13 countries, including Germany and the Benelux nations, signed a declaration on security of electricity supply, while Baltic nations, among the most dependent on Russian gas, signed an outline accord on closer EU energy links.
"The signatory countries are determined to enhance security of supply through further market integration," Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said. "This is one of the main building blocks of the energy union."
Declarations, however, are easy compared with the detail of implementing them.
The European Union last October reached an outline deal on three 2030 targets to cut emissions by at least 40 percent versus 1990, improve energy savings to at least 27 percent and to increase the share of renewable energy to 27 percent.
The goals replace three 2020 targets, all of 20 percent, which the bloc is close to achieving.
But member states, such as Eurosceptic Britain, jealously guard their right to decide what kind of energy they use, making it difficult to agree the detail of implementing policy goals.
An internal Commission note, seen by Reuters, acknowledges the need to preserve member states' right "to define policies matching national preferences and circumstances" but it also says national energy plans must complement regional plans and vice versa.
To allow each country to present its plan and others to comment, it proposes to hold forums next year, after which draft plans should be submitted to the Commission by mid 2017.
Analysts question who will provide the necessary investments needed and whether the 28 EU nations can be persuaded to act for a common good.
"In all honesty, the gap between member states has only widened over the course of the past years," said Tim Boersma, of Brookings Institution, a Washington-based independent think-tank.
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