Statement by State Secretary for European and International Affairs of Austria, Mr. Reinhold Lopatka
Croatia Forum on European Energy Security Dubrovnik, 3-4 October 2013
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Ladies and gentlemen,
The interdependence of today’s world is particularly pertinent when we think about energy security, water and food supply. We are confronted with the growing energy demand of emerging economies, the increasing EU import dependence, regional conflicts resulting in market disruption, and the need for global action to address climate, environmental and competitiveness concerns.
Europe faces major challenges regarding energy supply security, market stability, affordability of energy and sustainability. New trends like the production of shale gas in the USA have changed the energy-map on global level and influence the industrial and economic development.
From this perspective, it is clear that transforming our energy systems will be key to attaining a sustainable and resource-efficient development of our economies. We have to transform the way how we produce, distribute and consume energy.
Europe has a special responsibility in engineering this energy transformation. It is essential to promote a new Europe-wide common energy architecture fit to serve the needs of Europe in 2050.
Energy transformation should not be limited to de-carbonisation. We need a sound balance of ensured security of supply, affordable energy and safe and sustainable technologies. We have to avoid taking today what belongs to future generations. We also have to choose socially acceptable ways and methods of transformation.
Europe must safeguard its competitive industries and continue to provide attractive work-places to its peoples through green growth. We must by all means avoid becoming a place of industrial decay or exodus with less abundant but more expensive energy. It is essential to discuss how the future economic structure in Europe should look like. From the economic crisis we have learned that countries with a high share of industry were less affected than others only relying on services. Europe needs to stay competitive!
From an Austrian perspective, improved energy efficiency needs to be combined with increasing proportions of renewables. Research and development are crucial to trigger new solutions, and to avoid regret options. From a technical point of view, it seems essential to make progress in the tricky question of power storage. New and smart grid development is necessary to allow progress on the renewables’ front.
It is crucial to create a well-integrated and functioning internal energy market in order to better achieve security of supply and competitive energy prices. Therefore not only the rules of the Third Energy Package need to be transposed but we have to increase the interconnections to allow a free flow of energy from East to West and North to South.
Volatile energies have led to a change in the market to an unprecedented extent. It is time to re-think our market-design to be fit for the future. At the same time we need to - as far as possible - rely on market mechanisms and only intervene in specific and justified cases to the necessary extent avoiding market distortion through a badly-designed support scheme.
Austria has invested a lot in renewables and efficiency and is well-developed in this regard:
- We hold the first place in the EU regarding the share of renewables in power-consumption.
- And we hold the third place regarding the share of renewables in our gross domestic energy consumption.
- Regarding energy intensity – that is the amount of energy needed for the production of a GDP-unit – we have the fourth lowest level in the EU.
Austria has a remarkable potential in green technologies and an ambitious energy research programme. Certain solar thermic and solar voltaic products, as well as biomass equipment and heat pumps propel our exports, and some products hold significant shares in the EU-market.
While respecting the sovereign right of every country to choose its appropriate energy mix, we call for the phasing out of nuclear, as it is not safe nor sustainable nor climate-friendly. Taking into account the full fuel cycle from building the power plant to its final de-commissioning, moving and storing the waste, the carbon-foot-print is huge, the costs are exorbitant and future generations encumbered with incalculable mortgages. Accidents have a dreadfully disproportional impact on human life and environment, as tragically shown by the recent catastrophe of Fukushima.
This should also be taken into account when discussing the energy policy after 2020.
We welcome the fact that the European Commission has started the debate in form of a Greenbook and a public consultation. We need to make sure that there are clear guidelines on which investors can rely. In a future energy policy all mentioned aspects - from security of supply to safe and sustainable energy production and competitive energy prices – have to be included based on the lessons we learned from the 2020 goals.
Energy is a key to ensure vital human needs and development. Access to reliable energy services is a prerequisite for health services, education, clean water and food security for billions of people. Energy is more than a commercial commodity. It is a “special good”.
The Millennium Development Goals as well as climate change challenges require international collective action. Energy policy must recognise the global need to address energy poverty and climate chance simultaneously.
Austria, therefore, fully supports the initiative of the UN Secretary General on “Sustainable Energy 4 ALL”. This initiative calls for access to modern energy services, including electricity and clean cooking facilities, for ALL by 2030. At the same time it puts the focus on enhancing energy efficiency across all regions and on doubling the portion of renewables in the global end use. Vienna is hosting the Office of the Global Support Team which has been established to implement the initiative on sustainable energy. This new entity strengthens the energy hub in Vienna that is made up by so far eight international organisations dealing with energy-related matters, among them the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA), OPEC, UNIDO and the Energy Community. These organisations have created a forum for dialogue, the “Vienna Energy Club”, for the periodic informal exchange of views on energy. Thereby, broad knowledge and expertise is combined with global decision-making.
I am confident that Vienna can and will contribute forward-looking solutions to the global dialogue on energy.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Croatia for hosting this Conference and for putting Europe’s energy security on our agenda. We need to continue this discussion, and we need to act jointly.