Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.
Europe's Energy Challenges
Click! Louis the Light Bulb at your service! What? You've never seen a talking light bulb before? Well, don't let that worry you. I'm merely here to introduce you to the European Union's energy policy. What's that? You didn't know the European Union had an energy policy or that it even needed one? It certainly does - on both counts.
Perhaps it's best to start with a few facts about energy and about Europe's energy challenges. Every time you start your car, boot up your computer, or even turn on a light bulb, like me, you are using energy. What's more, you are most likely using energy that comes from fossil fuels, like coal, oil, and gas, which are limited and will not last forever.
The European Union is currently consuming about one fifth of the whole world's energy supply, but since it lacks many energy resources of its own, it has to import much of its fuel. It spends over 350 billion Euros annually to do so. On top of that, Union members are feeling the effects of overusing fossil fuels, and they are struggling with environmental issues, greenhouse gases, and climate change.
The EU's Energy History
These problems aren't new. Concern about energy usage in the European Union has been around since its very beginning. In the Union's early days, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) tried to deal with energy issues, and Union members banded together to create oil supplies and work on a crisis management plan. The challenges, however, only increased as the years passed. Power shortages plagued Europe; energy needs continued to grow; and environmental hazards sprang up everywhere.
National leaders realized that they needed a Union-wide energy policy, so in 2009, they agreed to the Treaty of Lisbon, which authorized the European Union to secure the continent's energy supply, to improve the energy market, to connect energy networks throughout Europe, and to increase energy efficiency on all levels. If Union members joined together to support a continental energy policy, leaders hoped, perhaps, they would be able to find workable solutions to deep-rooted energy problems.
Europe's Energy Strategy
The European Union jumped right in and developed the Energy 2020 strategy that is designed to fulfill the goals of the Treaty of Lisbon. It proposes five basic priorities for Europe's energy future.
First, the Union's overall goal is to decrease its energy use by 20% by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels). This means implementing strict energy efficiency policies at all levels. Consumers, for instance, receive information about saving energy in their homes and businesses, even in small ways, like turning off lights and buying energy efficient appliances. Energy companies receive assistance in updating their equipment so they can offer better energy options at lower prices. Even national and local governments are getting in on the act by renovating public buildings with energy goals in mind and improving transportation systems.
The strategy's second priority is to build up a continental energy market. This means eliminating energy monopolies within nations and introducing Europe-wide competition among suppliers and producers so customers have a choice in their energy consumption. Success in this priority would mean lower prices and better supplies. The European Union is in a perfect place to make and enforce the rules for this kind of integrated energy market.
Third, the Energy 2020 strategy seeks to empower and protect energy consumers. Through education, customers can know their rights, learn how to reduce their energy spending, and make their energy budgets more affordable. Customers should also be able to choose their energy suppliers and to have easy access to their energy consumption numbers. What's more, the European Union wants to make sure that Europe's energy production and transportation are as safe and secure as possible, so it sets high standards for energy companies to help them protect both citizens and the environment.
The strategy's fourth priority is to make Europe a leader in energy innovation and technology. The Union is encouraging research into alternate energy sources, like biofuels and other renewable resources; working on smart grids and networks to transport and store energy more efficiently; and encouraging the establishment of energy-conscious smart cities.
Fifth and finally, the European Union is committed to working globally to meet its goals and help other nations improve their energy usage. To do this, the Union is striving for global agreements about energy production and transportation, the integration of markets and energy regulations, cooperation in research and technology, and global safety measures.
On to 2050
The European Union also realizes that energy concerns will last far beyond 2020, so it has created Roadmap 2050 to guide it into its energy future. The Roadmap lays out several long-term goals that extend the Energy 2020 priorities and take them to the next level.
These goals include:
- Cutting greenhouse gas emissions to between 80% and 95% of their 1990 level
- Reducing energy use by 30% (compared to the 2005 level)
- Creating a safe and competitive energy system that does not rely on carbon
- Further increasing energy efficiency and better managing energy
- Diversifying energy sources to focus more on renewable resources
- Growing in technology with new grids and other innovations
- Establishing and maintaining a continent-wide energy system
As you can see, the European Union is leading the way in energy management. Despite its energy challenges, it has worked long and hard to increase its energy resources and safety. The 2009 Treaty of Lisbon authorized the European Union to secure the continent's energy supply, to improve the energy market, to connect energy networks throughout Europe, and to increase energy efficiency on all levels.
The Energy 2020 strategy is designed to fulfill the goals of the Treaty of Lisbon. It proposes five basic priorities for Europe's energy future:
- To decrease Europe's energy use by 20% by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels)
- To build up a continental energy market
- To empower and protect energy consumers
- To make Europe a leader in energy innovation and technology
- To work globally
The European Union also realizes that energy concerns will last far beyond 2020, so it has created Roadmap 2050 to guide it into its energy future. The Roadmap lays out several long-term goals that extend the Energy 2020 priorities and take them to the next level of energy efficiency, technology, and safety.
Well, I hope you've learned something about the European Union's energy policies. This is Louis the Light Bulb signing off. Click!
Work through this lesson, then test your ability to:
- Discuss the impact of the Treaty of Lisbon on Europe's energy challenges
- Outline the five priorities of Europe's Energy 2020 strategy
- List the long-term goals of Europe's Roadmap 2050
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