Developing Energy Policy for Europe: A Finnish Perspective on Energy Cooperation in the European Union

By Voutilainen, Pekka | Energy Law Journal, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Developing Energy Policy for Europe: A Finnish Perspective on Energy Cooperation in the European Union


Voutilainen, Pekka, Energy Law Journal


Synopsis:

Traditionally, energy policy within the European Union (EU) has fallen within the jurisdiction of individual member states. In the recent years the member states and the European Commission have acknowledged that a joint European Energy Policy is the most effective response to the challenges we are facing today. These challenges include global warming and other environmental issues, energy security, energy efficiency, ways and means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and dependence on the fossil fuels. It has become increasingly clear that it is important for the EU in order to reach its goals to speak with one voice towards third world countries in the issues relating to energy and climate. It is not an easy task to formulate a common energy policy approach to the EU. However, we have made positive steps and the further development of common approach in key areas is under way. The EU thrives to position itself to be the leader in tackling climate change and developing technologies that will ensure that tomorrow's energy is cleaner and more sustainable.

I. INTRODUCTION

The Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), the main decision making body of the EU, rotates, by agreement, among the member states every six months. Finland held the rotating presidency from July 1 until December 31, 2006, and among its responsibilities was management and development of the EU's energy and environmental policies. The dual and related challenges of combating global warming and reducing member states' dependence of imported fossil fuels' were key issues during Finland's presidency2 and are likely to be on the EU agenda for the indefinite future. As head of the economic section of Finland's embassy in Washington D.C. during that period, I was involved in the dialogue on climate and energy between the European Union and the United States and also had the opportunity to chair a local EU working group of experts dealing with energy and environment. It is from this vantage point that I offer a look back at EU environmental and energy policy during the Finnish Presidency of the EU and some comments on recent developments and the likely future direction of EU energy and environmental policy.3

II. THE CONCEPT OF AN EU ENERGY POLICY

Traditionally, energy policy within the EU has fallen within the jurisdiction of individual member states. The resulting lack of a common approach regarding energy is strikingly evident in the varying approaches displayed by individual member states. For example, among the EU countries, Finland is a heavy user of energy because of our climate, our long distances, and our energy-intensive industry. The total energy use of the U.S. and Finland are per capita roughly at the same level. Finland uses more electricity per capita than the U.S. Nevertheless, per capita Finland produces less CO2 emissions than the U.S.

In recent years, the role of the EU in steering energy policy has increased despite the fact that implementation of EU policy decisions remains largely in the national competence of individual member states. The EU faces serious energy challenges concerning sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as security of supply, import dependence, and the competitiveness and effective implementation of the internal energy market. This has generated a demand for a more united approach to energy challenges. Member states have acknowledged that a European Energy Policy is the most effective response to these challenges, which are faced by all member states. It will not be an easy task, but work towards a European Energy Policy is well on its way.5 The areas of the EU's recent common focus are discussed below.6

A. Towards a low-energy economy

Both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on imported fossil fuel, EU policy is to create a high-efficiency energy economy with low CO2 emissions. To do so, it has set for itself several challenging energy objectives. …

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