Energy Policy: SER-2 [01] Introduction

The European Commission published the Second Energy Review (SER-2) November 2008. Entitled “Securing our Energy Future”, it was made available during the same week the IEA's World Energy Outlook was released, which stole much of the impact it could have had and delayed serious insight up to now.

This Strategy attempts to set a Course of Action towards three main Goals:

  • Sustainability
  • Competitiveness
  • Security of Supply

This log entry is the first of a series that will try to build a critical but constructive review of this crucial element of future Energy Policy in Europe.

An audio version of this log entry can be downloaded here.

SER-2 is a set of ten documents of different scopes and purposes. They are gathered at the Strategy's web page, where a plethora of other supportive documents can also be found. The amount of information gathered at this web page is quite considerable, making it a very useful resource, something that by itself is already a positive result of the effort put into this Strategy.

The first document to be reviewed is the press release that serves as a sort of Executive Summary to the full Strategy.

Securing your energy future: Commission presents energy security, solidarity and efficiency proposals

“Securing your” is an unfortunate way of starting. The implied gap between policy makers or technocrats and commons citizens is in stark contrast to what the EU should aim to be. In any event this is just a detail, but illustrative.

The opening paragraph contains a few key ideas and shows up front the main areas of action:

The European Commission has proposed today a wide-ranging energy package which gives a new boost to energy security in Europe, supporting the 20-20-20 climate change proposals which should be agreed by December. The Commission puts forward a new strategy to build up energy solidarity among Member States and a new policy on energy networks to stimulate investment in more efficient, low-carbon energy networks. The Commission proposes a new EU Energy Security and Solidarity Action Plan which sets out five areas where more action is needed to secure sustainable energy supplies. The Commission also looks at the challenges that Europe will face between 2020 and 2050. In addition, a package of energy efficiency proposals aims to make energy savings in key areas, such as reinforcing energy efficiency legislation on buildings and energy-using products, and enhancing the role of energy performance certificates as well as inspection reports for heating and air-conditioning systems.

SER-2 puts flesh on the bones set out by the 20-20-20 agenda. But it is clear that the Strategy's scope is going beyond Climate concerns. “Security and Solidarity” sounds virtuous. Conceptually, member states should be able to address threats to foreign energy supplies better by cooperating among each other. Some expectation builds up on knowing exactly what this plan is. Of positive note is also the intent to look into the long term and the focus on Efficiency, a chapter where the Commission can have a decisive and swift impact.

Quotes worth noting:

54% of Europe's energy is imported at a cost of €700 for every EU citizen. We have to address this urgently, by taking measures to increase our energy efficiency and reduce our dependence on imports. We have to invest and diversify. The proposals adopted today represent an unequivocal statement of the Commission's desire to guarantee secure and sustainable energy supplies, and should help us deliver on the crucial 20-20-20 climate change targets.

José Manuel Barroso, Commission President

But we have to do more, be more ambitious, and be even bolder to avoid the risk of energy disruption in the future. This means investment. Investing in energy, including energy efficiency, means giving our economy the push it needs at this uncertain time.

Andris Piebalgs, Energy Commissioner

The development of strong and reliable energy partnerships with suppliers, transit countries and other major energy consumers is key, and therefore the new generation energy interdependence provisions proposed today is an important step forward.  Today's review also proposes steps to strengthen the EU's capacity to mobilise in support of essential infrastructure to bring supplies from third countries.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations

Urgency. The role of Energy in our society and the menaces posed by internal depletion seem to be now grasped, if not fully at least in good measure. Too bad that this Commission hadn't the same thinking when it took office in 2004, but better late than ever. It is also worth pointing out that this Commission is not dreaming about “energy independence” and acknowledges healthy foreign relations as an important pillar of the Union's energy predicament.

Implementing the measures to reach the targets set by the European Council towards the 20-20-20 agenda is the first priority of SER-2, with the security of supply relegated to second place. But, the scenario is painted clearly:

Even when the renewable energy policy goals are reached, Europe is likely to be dependent on more imports than today. The EU needs to improve the current policies to achieve its energy efficiency objective. Moreover, the ability of the EU to respond together in a crisis needs to be strengthened.

Such sobriety is encouraging. But it should be made more clear that a scenario where the EU imports more energy by 2020 than now is very unlikely; the exact opposite is what should be expected – hence the concern.

One more point worth highlighting:

Greater focus on energy in the EU's international relations, including through [sic] establishment of relationships with supplier, transit and consumer countries based on interdependence will contribute to the achievement of the EU energy policy goals and also increase the EU's influence on international energy developments. Closer coordination among Member States and with the Commission in external energy relations will be particularly important in this regard.

This acknowledges that Energy will henceforth have a pivotal role in geopolitics and that an integrated European Energy Policy will naturally require an integrated European Foreign Policy. This is one point that still haunts the EU (also evident when Kosovo declared independence) and once more stresses the need for an update of European Institutions.

Finally some interesting things can be read between the lines of the closing paragraphs:


The first Strategic Review led to the European Council agreement in March 2007 on energy policy targets for Europe. Since then, the Commission has proposed a number of measures to deliver these goals, including a package of proposals to open up the EU energy market further, now close to adoption, a Strategic Energy Technology Plan to promote clean energy technology, new measures to improve the energy consumption of consumer goods and proposals for new compulsory targets on renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions.

The March 2007 European Council invited the Commission to bring forward an updated Strategic energy Review in early 2009. The proposals adopted today respond to that request.

From this stems the idea that the previous proposals directed at deregulating the Energy Market failed to address either Climate concerns or Energy Security, eventually leading to this second Strategy. SER-2 represents a re-formulation of the Energy Policy defended during the first half of this Commission's office, that in face of events had this time to address reality.

Earlier articles on EU energy policy

The EU Strategic Energy Review: maybe not so depressing after all

Andris Piebalgs on European Energy Security

Andris Piebalgs on Bio Fuels

Eco-Driving promoted by the European Commission

EU Commission's Energy Strategy for Europe

Andris Piebalgs: Nuclear and the EU's Energy Policy

Andris Piebalgs' priority number one

Andris Piebalgs : getting a sense of proportion

What A Difference Two Years Makes

Typical bureaucratic hot air. I can see it now: high pressure on Russia to sign away its gas sovereignty. Not a squeek about highway robbery from basket cases like Ukraine. More bleating about Nabucco when Turkmenistan cannot possibly supply Ukraine, the EU and Asian customers (China). Ukraine has been having a low price ride thanks to Turkmenistan selling its gas for a song and supplying nearly all of the gas Ukraine imports "from Russia". These days are over as they should be.

The only serious discussion about energy security would involve exclusively talk about nuclear, wind, solar and conservation.

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement:

The only serious discussion about energy security would involve exclusively talk about nuclear, wind, solar and conservation.

Except I would add geothermal.

The high cost of fuel this past year did serious damage to our economy and society. After a brief reprieve gas prices are inching back up again. Our nation should not allow other nations to have such power over us and our economy . We have so much available to us in the way of technology and free sources of energy. WE seriously need to get on with becoming an energy independent nation. We are spending billions upon billions in bail out dollars. Why not spend some of those billions in getting alternative energy projects set up. We could create clean cheap energy, millions of badly needed new green jobs and lessen our dependence on foreign oil all in one fell swoop. I just read an eye opening book by Jeff Wilson called The Manhattan Project of 2009. It would cost the equivalent of 60 cents per gallon to drive and charge an electric car.If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. Why don't we use some of the billions in bail out money to bail us out of our dependence on foreign oil? This past year the high cost of fuel so seriously damaged our economy and society that the ripple effects will be felt for years to come.


Thank you for the recommendation. I've just ordered a copy -- but I must confess I am a priori skeptical about its economics.

If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota.

Extravagant claims like this automatically set my bullshit detector ringing -- on the assumption that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. But I'll suspend judgment until I've read the book.

Perhaps there is a magic bullet after all ... :-)

If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains,

...we'd be in the land of flying pigs, because it would have taken an impossibly huge investment to achieve that changeover of so many machines, regardless of the economic climate in which such investment is all the harder. So the continuation of the sentence become irrelevant.

My experience of these sorts of official plans is that their worthy generalisations fail to be supported by compatible details (such as contraction of air transport). And in respect of energy projections, they cannot be allowed to admit that the sums are simply not going to add up.

All I hear is what a "savior" Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles will be. Does anybody say how much they will weight, because weight, and aerodynamics are the major determinants of their efficiency. It takes just a much Exergy to power a given car, independent of its power source. Exergy is what we have to stop wasting.

The AVE captures Exergy lost in unconstrained expansion (updrafts) in the the troposphere. See

It strikes me as odd that neither of the wealthy regions Europe or the USA can achieve 'energy independence' within a generation. Nobody seems to ask whether South America, Africa or Asia can achieve energy independence. The implication is that wealthy regions are exceptional and deserve to stay that way. The likelihood is that both Europe and the US will have to sacrifice much of their wealth to pay other parts of the world for energy inputs. Thus the price for resource sharing will get increasingly high. The future must be homegrown resources - nextgen nukes, renewables and conservation. Any grab for external resources will have at best a temporary benefit.

54% of Europe's energy is imported at a cost of €700 for every EU citizen. We have to address this urgently, by taking measures to increase our energy efficiency and reduce our dependence on imports. We have to invest and diversify.

the answer is simple... cut everyones energy consumption by 50%

and then yearly at the internal depletion rate

If not voluntarily, then the Cuban way.

Thanks Luis.

Do you think there is any chance policymakers will act AHEAD of a crisis as opposed to reacting TO a crisis?

If so, under what circumstances and what can we (or anyone) do to make it happen?

Well, can anyone think of any examples of policymakers having acted ahead of a crisis?** There are plenty examples of action delayed till after events or till too late (the energy peak being only the most glaring).
I reckon policymakers are almost/always too authoritarian (hence closed to 'new' ideas) to take on any predictive reasonings they are shown.
**I've just thought of these two examples: Millenium bug and MMR vaccination campaign to avert epidemic. I suggest key factors here are (1) no big biz opposition to the action and (2) yes big biz pressure for the action. As ever, government decisions are decided in favour of the big money.

The best local Swedish example might be changing the pension system into one that automatically adjusts the pension levels to the available funds instead of running out of money and crashing. It were set up about 15 years ago and the worst demograpic problems are still to come.

It might in some ways have been a response to a crisis. The Swedish banking crisis led to a number of changes to make our financial system more stable and they might have observed that the pension system were unstable.

In the same era were the national bank made formaly independant of parliament in setting the interest rates and we agreed on a government budget process that capped spending with a goal of a surplus over a full ordinary enconomcial cycle. This has so far held and governmet debt have gone down.

Thanks Magnus. I suspect that Sweden has more competence than most other countries (though I've heard it has been yet another to benefit from its welcoming of the "religion of peace").
But unfortunately most of the world isn't Sweden!

The longer I think about energy, the more I am convinced that there really are only limited options, and that the way forward should be done by ordinary people like you and me. I really don't see politicians as leaders out of this predicament.

What I would expect from the EC is that they would increase the tax on fossil fuel and mandate the use of sustainable energy. And that they would regulate away the worst energy waste.

But I'm sorry to say that the EC is not a very believable partner: There is a 66.1% additional tax on CFL bulbs. Together with the 19% VAT that means half of the sales price is tax. This is not in the interest of the ordinary citizen of the EU and still these people think they represent the common man.

There is more stupid stuff: You can buy a car with a big engine in the Netherlands and still get the green sticker, and thus a 1700 euro rebate. And you can buy 1.4l cars which don't get that rebate. What you would expect is that the EC would tax V6 engines out of existence.

Kerosene has no tax on it. That's why it is cheaper to fly to Turkey for a long weekend than taking the train to Paris. Why can't I take the TGV to Madrid on friday night for a price lower than an plane ticket?

Now we can talk long and hard about all EC proposals, but to me this signals that the EC is not part of the solution, but part of the problem.

[Addition] On Andris Piebalgs weblog he states that the EC will ban all common light bulbs in favour of CFL bulbs from sept 2012 onwards. This will save the European citizen 5 billion euro annually.

We could have had this legislation 10 years ago, when the EC decided i.s.o. banning the lightbulb, to tax the CFL bulb nearly out of existance. This was done because the German government subsidized an Osram CFL factory in eastern Germany and they did not want Chinese competition.

Total damage: 15 years * 5 billion/year = 75 billion.

Thank you, beloved Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Any good Al Gore movies on the telly today?


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