EWEA slams EC's Russia stance

Europe’s wind industry has strongly criticised the European Commission’s energy security plan for swapping dependency on energy imports from Russia for the unstable regions of the Middle East and North Africa, while neglecting the key role renewables could play.

Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso says that the EU “remains vulnerable” to gas supply disruptions and warns that Europe must reduce its dependence on energy imports following the Ukraine crisis.

The Commission calls for immediate action to identify alternative sources of gas and firm up contingency plans before next winter.

In the medium term, it urges member states to speed up the delivery of energy efficiency programmes and increase domestic production, whether by exploiting shale gas or developing renewables.

The EU will also seek new supply routes in order to reduce reliance on Russian gas, namely by developing the Southern Gas Corridor, the Mediterranean Gas Hub and increasing liquefied natural gas imports.

“We want strong and stable partnerships with important suppliers, but must avoid falling victim to political and commercial blackmail,” says European energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger.

“The EU and its member states have a long list of homework in front of them. Collectively, we need to reinforce our solidarity with more vulnerable member states. We also need to complete the internal energy market, improve our infrastructure, become more energy efficient and better exploit our own energy resources.

“Moreover, we need to accelerate the diversification of external energy suppliers, especially for gas. Only concrete actions will help,” adds Oettinger.

The energy security strategy also advocates accelerating the construction of key interconnectors. The Commission proposes to extend the current 10% interconnection target to 15% by 2030.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) says the report is “business as usual”. It adds that Europe should be relying on indigenous energy resources and this means investment in renewables.

“Putin cannot turn off Europe’s wind,” says the association.

EWEA says the Commission is ignoring its own 2030 climate and energy impact assessment, published in January. This assessment cites that a 30% renewables target for 2030, together with higher energy efficiency, would cut Europe's reliance on gas imports by almost three times as much as the current 27% proposal.

"The report from the Commission doesn’t outline how Europe can reduce its energy dependence on external sources; instead it focuses on severing the reliance on Russia by shifting the dependence elsewhere,” says Justin Wilkes, EWEA’s deputy chief executive officer.

"In the first half of 2014, we have seen Ukraine fall into disarray and an IPCC report warning that investment in renewables is needed to avoid a climate catastrophe. Circumstance has forced Europe's leaders into a rethink. Now they must act to ensure the region's energy security for years to come."

"It is imperative that we make the switch over to renewables, particularly wind, sooner rather than later. Heads of state can start down that road by setting an ambitious 2030 renewables target that strives towards true energy security and independence," he says.

Environmental group Greenpeace described Europe’s big plan for energy independence as “a timid attempt at rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic”.

“The bloc’s reliance on dirty fossil fuels is at the root of its energy problem, yet the Commission’s plan does little to tackle it. In fact, pointing to false solutions like fracking and new gas pipelines will only lock us into fossil fuel dependence for decades to come, “ says Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Louise Hutchins.

“This is like a surreal Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where the addicts are handed out phone numbers of new dealers instead of being helped out of their addiction, “ she adds.