The European Commission published February 1, 2017, its 2nd State of the Energy Union Report, which reviews progress made since the publication of the first such report in November 2015.
The report finds that Europe is well on track to reach its 2020 targets in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency and renewable energy.
In a lunchtime press briefing, commission vice president Maros Sefcovic was asked if he was concerned that Europe is now importing more gas than ever from Russia, and that Gazprom now wants to use the TAP pipeline.
He replied that, given reduced EU energy consumption and greater gas-on-gas competition, the EU should be less worried [about Gazprom] than in the past but noted that the anti-trust probe into Gazprom over its alleged dominant position in eastern Europe is still pending.
«We have learned the lessons of the past: we have more [gas] interconnectors, and gas storage is stress-tested. We have a more liquid gas market. We may even be in a stronger position. My message to importers is, you should be open to stiff competition. We want to ensure there are no strings attached,» said Sefcovic, adding the EU would continue its gas diversification efforts: «I’m confident that by 2020 we will have Caspian gas in Europe.»
Asked about a flare-up in the eastern Ukraine conflict January 31, he said that the commission was in regular contact with the Russian energy ministry and separately Ukrainian energy ministry: «We’re monitoring gas flows and, despite the harsh winter, everything works fine.»
He said that transport capacity was operating at 50%-60%, although it was not clear if this referred to transit capacity across Ukraine, or overall Russian export capacity to Europe.
Sefcovic, who starts a tour of EU member states February 3, also noted in the context of the latest Energy Union report: «Renewable energy is now cost-competitive and sometimes cheaper than fossil fuels, employs over 1mn people in Europe, and has reduced the EU fossil fuels imports bill by €16bn ($17.3bn).» He did not break down that figure, however, which may in part be due to the fall in global oil prices and glutted world LNG market.