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Intervento del Vice Ministro Dassù al Convegno “The energy transition in Europe: different pathways, same destination?”

(fa fede solo il testo effettivamente pronunciato)

· Let me first of all thank Edison and the World Energy Council for inviting me to address you tonight. Considering that this is an opening dinner and that the real conference will take place tomorrow, I will not keep you from your food for too long and I will limit myself to touch on a few points that you will be able to discuss at length during your workshop.

· My first point is that a common energy policy should, in theory, be one of the pillars of a more integrated Europe. This is, after all, how the European project began, through the integration of the markets of coal and steel. And yet, more than half a century later, Europe is still struggling to define a common approach to energy issues.

· Europe’s import dependence has increased in the last two decades and is set to grow to more than 80% by 2035 in the case of oil and gas. This dependence on foreign hydrocarbons is not only a strategic liability but also a serious limit to economic development, especially since there are many other assertive actors competing in the global race for energy resources. Gaining access to cheaper energy supplies, expanding utilization of domestic sources, diversifying suppliers, operating new fields abroad and setting forth the economic and regulatory conditions for the supply of affordable and sustainable energy are key to improving competitiveness and, thereby, to re-launching economic growth. In a nutshell, energy prices – especially in highly energy dependent countries like Italy and Germany – are simply too high. They are a negative constraint on competition.

· I am aware of the difficulties of the task. Member States have very different energy mixes, as a result of availability of natural resources, national policy choices – should we or should we not use nuclear power? -, financial incentives, tariff schemes, support for renewable sources etc. . Some member States rely on one single supplier. We all share, however, common objectives: reducing the energy bill, securing a reliable supply of energy and limiting the environmental impact of energy production. EU countries will inevitably follow different pathways to achieve these objectives: the goal of the EU common energy policy is not and should not be to hamper those pathways but rather to reconcile them within a coherent framework.

· Actually, the framework is already there, but implementation is still too slow. The smooth implementation of the third “energy package”, aimed at completing the internal energy market by 2014, is an important step, but only one of many. The definition of a more coherent political and legislative environment for energy investors beyond 2020, the harmonization of subsidies and support schemes for renewables, the modernization of existing infrastructures and the identification of financial means to promote research and technological innovation are among the first that come to mind.

· There is no time to waste. The shale gas revolution is bringing about rapid changes (although not all agree on the real potential of this unconventional source of energy). The US is on its way to become a net gas exporter. After the first authorization given in May 2011, the US Energy Department conditionally authorized the second LNG export to non-FTA countries from Freeport terminal in Texas. This is not the place to delve into the geopolitics of the shale gas and tight oil revolution – we should devote a whole conference to this – but let it suffice to say that, from an economic point of view, the impact of this new scenario is already being felt, in Europe more than anywhere else. The exploitation of shale gas is creating a deep gap between the EU and US industrial energy prices: reports of the European Commission show that in 2012 industry gas prices in Europe were more than four times higher than in America. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the US has benefited from more than 90 billion US$ dollars in additional investments because of low gas prices. In general European governments, save the UK and Poland, are sceptical of fracking, because they fear its environmental impact. This will further deepen the gap in industry prices.

· In Italy, where energy tariffs are among the highest in the EU, we are well aware of the energy price-burden and of the need to act – collectively and timely- to put downward pressure on energy costs. Our action must be two-fold: on the one hand, we need to act fast to develop a well-integrated domestic market, to diversify supply routes and expand the capacity to invest in cross-border energy infrastructures; on the other, we need to put in place a determined, pro-active and coordinated diplomatic action towards non-EU countries and markets. In other words, we cannot separate the internal and external dimensions of the European energy policy. These two dimensions should run in parallel so as to reinforce each other.

· Europe’s energy aspirations have a direct impact on the relationship with some of its neighbours, as well as with other international actors. An assertive diplomatic agenda must be driven by complementary motivations: to meet Europe’s soaring energy needs and to assert the Union as a hub, increasing its clout in the international system. It is necessary, in the first place, to build up more ambitious energy partnership with key supplier regions, above all the Maghreb, West Africa, the Caspian area and, in time, Central Asia. To this extent, the opening of the Southern Corridor is a priority target for strengthening both EU energy security and partnerships with Caspian producers. Italy has always been committed to this goal: in the first phase, by supporting the former ITGI project – the organizers here know something about it; more recently, after the exclusion of ITGI, by supporting the TAP project, which we recognize as the best available option to achieve the diversification of natural gas supply to Western Europe, South East Europe and the Western Balkans, in line with stated European principles and priorities on energy security.

· Russia remains a crucial actor for European energy security. The EU highly depends on Russian oil and natural gas supplies; at the same time, Russia benefits from the high-tech and know-how transfer ensured by European companies operating in the country. Considering this close and deeply rooted interdependency, the bilateral relationship should be based on a forward-looking strategy. Concerns on specific issues, such as the Commission procedure on Gazprom and the application of the Third Package rules to the South Stream pipeline project must be properly addressed; yet, they shall not prevent the development of a broader energy partnership. The EU-Russia 2050 Energy Roadmap is a key step to advance in this direction. In this spirit Italy, – being one of the main importer but also carrying the burden of take or pay contracts – is working to facilitate the finalization of an agreement between Russia and the Commission.

· EU energy policy shall also take into account the strategic role of energy within bilateral and multilateral trade and services negotiations. First and foremost, the United States. EU-US negotiations on the Trans-Atlantic Investment Partnership are important in this respect, since they provide new LNG trade opportunities between Europe and the US. According to the current US Federal law, in fact, LNG export to non-FTA countries are subjected to specific conditions and only granted if consistent with public interest.

· Tomorrow you will gather with the experts and debate other interesting and important issues – the importance of smart grids, the reform of the CO2 regulations, the Energy Roadmap, the consultation on the Green Paper or the provisions of the Italian National Energy Strategy, for example. Tonight however, as a non-expert of energy issues, I tried to provide some food for thought on how a fast-changing energy market will require from Europe a reaction that cannot be solely technical or inward-looking but need also entail a complex diplomatic activity, both at the national and European level. Balancing these two aspects will be the key to an effective common energy policy. On this note, I thank you for your attention and I will let you enjoy your dinner.

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