European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, in charge of the Energy Union, visited Northern Netherlands as part of his Energy Union Tour. On May 29th he was in Groningen and took part in the Energy Debate hosted by Energy Academy Europe. During the Debate Vice-President Šefčovič presented his view on Energy Union and answered many of the questions that students of RUG and Hanze UAS prepared for him.
Vice-President Šefčovič has been traveling to Lower Saxony, Germany and Northern Netherlands in order to discuss the opportunities of the Energy Union and regional cooperation in the above mentioned territories. A European Energy Union is currently one of the 10 priorities of the European Commission. The goal of the Union is “to give EU consumers secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy”; it consists of five interrelated dimensions: secure supplies, internal energy market, energy efficiency, emissions reduction, as well as research & innovation in energy.
During the press-conference prior to the Debate Vice-President Šefčovič noted that his visit to Northern Netherlands allowed him to personally see how successful the region was in implementing technology in the energy field; he also complimented the educational programs created in the North to help tackle the shortage of energy professionals in the country. He said: “I heard a lot about these positive developments and the cooperation and wanted to come and see it myself. I am glad I continued my first Energy Tour in The Netherlands.” In fact, this was the second time the Vice-President visited The Netherlands in a course of a week. He wrote about his first visit in detail on his blog.
According to Vice-President Šefčovič, Energy Valley has an important role to play for reaching the goals of the Energy Union. Speaking of Energy Valley, he commented: “I was studying in Stanford, so I know what Silicon Valley did for California, The United States and the World. I hope that Energy Valley can do the same for The Netherlands and Europe.” With regard to this, Vice-President Šefčovič also mentioned that he and his colleagues will soon present a new plan for funding energy technology research in Europe. He stated that the European Commission has allocated €5.9 billion for this purpose and expressed hope that progressive energy projects in Northern Netherlands would be able to get support this way.
— Maroš Šefčovič (@MarosSefcovic) May 29, 2015
During the Debate Vice-President Šefčovič elaborated on his view on the Energy Union. He told the students that it was high time the EU achieved a closer integration in the energy domain, just like it has already achieved it in many other fields e.g. transportation and currency. He said: “We removed many barriers in daily aspects of our lives. I think it is high time we did the same with energy. Why not build the proper infrastructure so the energy could flow freely? Why cannot we use our finances better on a regional scale? We can see that now each member is subsidizing different sources of energy, each in its own way and with their own money. We know that we have a problem with energy in Europe which we have to address.” According to him, one particular factor that is catalyzing the effort to achieve the Energy Union in the EU is the dependence on energy imports, which became particularly clear after the Ukrainian crisis of the last year. “We need to make sure that when we need energy, we have it and we are not dependent on a single gas supplier,” he said.
Students on their part asked questions about particular aspects of the Energy Union, e.g. climate goals and the transition from old to new energy systems, boosting innovative thinking in schools and universities, the role of traditional energy businesses vs. independent energy producers, and others.
Vice-President Šefčovič noted that he was pleased to include a visit to the educational institution along all other meetings during his Energy Union Tour. The Energy Debate wasn’t the Vice-President Šefčovič’s only stop that day. Before this event he was visiting TenneT TSO, and later that day he visited EnTranCe.