Regional cooperation - a key to successful implementation of the Energy Union

Within the informal meeting held on 15-16 April in Riga the EU Energy Ministers held a high-level debate on two important dimensions of the Energy Union - energy efficiency issues, with particular reference to the heating and cooling sector, and on regional cooperation in the energy sector. The meeting was chaired by Ms Dana Reizniece-Ozola, Latvian Minister for Economic Affairs. The European Commission was represented by Mr Miguel Arias Cañete, the Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy.

Regional-cooperation“Since our last meeting many important steps were taken in order to ensure the successful implementation of the Energy Union,” in the opening of the informal meeting of the EU Energy Ministers stressed Latvian Minister for Economic Affairs. Energy efficiency is one of the core pillars of the Energy Union. It has a major impact on reduction of the energy demand and on increasing the efficient use of resources, thus making the EU economy more competitive. It also helps to ensure a higher level of energy security in the EU.

Energy ministers discussed the heating and cooling issues and the opportunities to find common solutions for development of the district heating and cooling within energy efficiency framework. The key topics of discussion were the main barriers to the effective heating and cooling market, issues addressing district heating, and access to financing for cost effective and sustainable heating and cooling.

Energy ministers had agreed that the EU Heating and cooling strategy is needed. The ministers concluded that the use of synergies, for example, use of hybrid systems, integration of renewable and/or indigenous resources, available technologies, in heating and cooling sectors is very important element. In addition it was highlighted the effectiveness principle, especially regarding the project development and implementation, the investment savings and cost savings for consumers. “The Presidency believes that a common EU strategy for heating and cooling should set a vision for the sector to enable the use of synergies and get the maximum benefit for consumers, the environment and the economy,” emphasized Ms Dana Reizniece-Ozola.

Based on the Energy Ministers’ discussion, the Presidency will prepare a summary note as a contribution to the EU strategy for heating and cooling, which the Commission will introduce in the coming months.

The EU Energy Ministers also discussed regional cooperation in the energy sector. Regional cooperation plays a key role in reaching the EU’s energy policy objectives. “The Energy Union needs close multi-faceted and multi-level cooperation. The Presidency considers that the regional dimension is crucial, as well as the enhanced and streamlined cooperation among the Member States. This should contribute to furthering all five dimensions of the Energy Union, including the creation of a fully integrated internal market, strengthened energy security, transition to low carbon economy, and the realised potential of research and innovation,” stressed Latvian Minister for Economic Affairs.

The main aim of the Latvian Presidency was to intensify the discussions on cooperation potential and conditions, and the promotion of best practice exchange of EU Member States. The Member States in general consider regional cooperation as key to the successful implementation of the Energy Union. It is relevant for all dimensions and different geographical configurations.

“Each of the different regions of the EU has its own culture of cooperation and solutions covering the specific needs of the region. I believe that we have an opportunity to learn from each other, so that together we avoid additional burden on ourselves during the further development of the Energy Union. One good example of a successful regional cooperation that was mentioned today is especially close to my heart - cooperation within the Baltic region in the energy field. The Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP) has been the key to this beneficial cooperation, and has achieved tangible results,” underlined Ms Dana Reizniece-Ozola.

During the discussion the Energy Ministers had concluded that in order to succeed in regional cooperation the EU shall follow a number of principles. A bottom-up, win-win approach on the basis of real needs, interests and coordinated national policies of involved Member States, is of high importance. The Commission shall have a crucial role in management and monitoring of regional initiatives. Well-grounded action plans are required to avoid potential overlaps, and to address specific issues like insufficient market integration, lack of cooperation between regulatory authorities, and poor legal and technical convergence.

On the basis of today’s discussion the Presidency will elaborate its recommendations to the Commission for consideration when the Commission will prepare their proposal for EU energy policy tools.

To conclude the informal meeting of the Energy Ministers the Latvian Minister for Economic Affairs, Ms Dana Reizniece-Ozola, emphasized: “Only by working together and in solidarity while being responsible for the decisions taken, we can be strong and build a model of cooperation from which everybody will benefit - consumers, businesses, competitiveness, science and research”.

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