European leaders play Russian roulette with energy policy

Publication - May 6, 2014
Russia's annexation of Crimea has sparked intense political debate about Europe’s dependence on Russian energy and pushed the issue onto the agenda of several high level political meetings. The G7 group of leading industrialised economies, including Germany, France, Italy and the UK, has prioritised improving energy security and put the issue on the agenda for the G7 energy ministers meeting in Rome on 5-6 May, as well as for the G7 summit of heads of state and government in early June.

Activists unfurl a banner reading: “G7: Go Renewable, Go Clean & Independent”, from the Terrazza del Pincio overlooking the Piazza del Popolo, as G7 energy ministers meet in Rome to discuss energy security. The activists are calling on the G7 to back renewables and energy efficiency to ensure energy independence.

At a European summit in late June, EU leaders will continue their talks on the closely linked topic of European 2030 climate and energy policies, ahead of a final decision due in October. The outcome of both discussions will have a major bearing on Europe’s ability to cut its reliance on energy imports and the future of Europe’s energy system.

The question is: are Europe’s decision makers ready to stand up to intense anti-renewables and anti-energy savings lobbying by some of Europe’s largest energy companies - including EDF, RWE, Eon, ENEL, Eni, Iberdrola, PGE, Vattenfall CEZ, Shell and BP . These companies have mainly invested in coal, gas and nuclear power and want to continue selling energy based on these outdated and polluting technologies.

If European leaders opt for the wrong solutions and begin importing fossil fuels or nuclear energy technologies from other countries, Europe will continue to rely on dirty, volatile and dangerous fuels for decades to come. But if political leaders make the right choices at the G7 meetings and the European Summit in June, Europe could not only cut its dependence on energy imports from Russia and elsewhere, it could also avert catastrophic climate change, lower energy costs, reduce air pollution, spark new jobs and industries, and give Europeans real energy security.

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