Energy Law

Energy Law in Europe

European Union Energy Policy and Law

Major differences exist between Member States’ national policies in the field of energy. France and Finland mostly rely on nuclear power, Italy is supplied almost entirely by imports, the Netherlands export substantial volumes of natural gas, and in Denmark the wind power sector is highly developed. Despite these basic differences, however, all countries agree on how important energy is for our modern societies. Without energy, our society and our economy would surely cease to function. Just as water is essential to human life, energy has become a condition for the survival of modern society. In order to guarantee sufficient, sustained and continuous supplies of energy, the European Union pays considerable attention to the many dimensions of energy production.

Within the context of completing the internal market, the EU has established a free market for energy. Since 1 July 2004, liberalisation of the energy market has been achieved for the commercial sector and regional authorities. It will be achieved for private individuals from 2007 onwards. The range of directives intended to pave the way for liberalisation, including the new electricity and gas directives and the directive relating to tax on energy, were subsequently adopted. Liberalisation, however, establishes limits on competition, whereby the supply of energy must not be threatened under any circumstances. The security of the supply of energy is and will therefore remain a key issue in Europe, particularly in an energy market open to competition.

In September 2002, the Commission adopted a range of communications, directives and decisions, and policy on the security of energy supply continues to expand. In December 2003, the Commission accordingly submitted a range of proposals intended to guarantee the security of the supply of electricity and strengthen the infrastructure involved.

A way to improve the security of supply and delivery is to stimulate innovation, particularly by comparing experience and potential in the transport, telecommunications and energy network sectors. Sustained attention is therefore paid to this area at European level.

In its November 2000 Green Paper “Towards a European strategy for the security of energy supply”, the Commission highlighted the importance of energy savings. When EU dependence on external energy sources and problems relating to climate change are considered, it is clear that energy savings remain a topical issue.

In June 2004, the European Commission published a communication on renewable energy that includes an analysis of the progress made in meeting the ambitious objectives the EU established in 2001, in terms of sustainable energy for 2010. The Commission made proposals with a view to adopting an international action plan for biomass and promoting research and development. The Council will also pay unceasing attention to the potential for structurally intensifying development, cooperation and information exchange on sustainable energy within the EU.

Within the context of the debate on the supply security of supply, the Council adopted conclusions on cooperation with neighbouring countries in the area of energy, energy transport and the energy market in December 2003. This primarily involves intensifying cooperation with countries surrounding the EU in terms of energy infrastructure and energy policy, Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, implementing a policy to extend the internal energy market to include the countries of South-East Europe, and dialogue between the EU and Russia.

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