Oettinger: EU unity on energy policy needed
Günther Oettinger, the European Commissioner-designate for energy and former prime minister of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, has called for a “paradigm shift” in EU energy policy to focus on indigenous wind energy, solar energy and ‘smart grids’ capable of delivering increasing amounts of renewable energy.
At his hearing on 15 January in the European Parliament, Oettinger also called for EU-wide unity in energy policy. Currently parts of Europe are operating in ‘energy islands’ such as the Baltics, he said, adding that the future goal is to stop this isolation from a common European electricity grid.
With the Lisbon Treaty the EU has boosted its competencies in energy, and thereby has raised the profile of energy commissioner. “Over the next five years I want to contribute, with you, towards a Europeanisation of our energy policy,” he told MEPs during the hearing.
Christian Kjaer, CEO of the European Wind Energy Association, said that Oettinger must now formulate a new energy policy for Europe. “Wind energy, as the most affordable zero-carbon technology, must be an essential component of it,” he said.
On climate change, Oettinger took a more scathing stance on the EU’s ability to act as a heavy-weight on the global political scene: “If the Copenhagen summit showed us one thing, it is that the European Union isn’t big enough for world authority when it comes to countries like China.”
Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) reported that the soon-to-be commissioner was applauded several times during his three-hour long hearing. Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a Spanish, centre-right MEP, said that Oettinger “defined the right priorities.”
“The environment and the economy must go together. At the same time, Europe must become more independent from energy imports,” Vidal-Quadras said, reported by Euractiv.
But DW also noted that Oettinger was a “surprise candidate” for the role of commissioner. The politician has no previous involvement in EU politics.