Last Sunday, in the JDDTotalEnergies, EDF and Engie called on the French to reduce their energy consumption now to avoid future shortages this winter as Russia gradually reduces its gas deliveries. But, according to Thierry Breton, the European commissioner for the internal market, the role of energy companies lies elsewhere.
“I call on all energy companies, not to ask us to reduce our energy consumption, that’s very good, but to work themselves to increase their energy deliveries for Europe. »he said yesterday during a press briefing, organized a few days before the end of the French presidency of the Council of the European Union, marked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Energy companies must go faster and coordinate with the States
According to the French commissioner, it is up to the States to help encourage their compatriots to adopt more energy-efficient behavior. The energy companies, them, “must go faster to increase their supply capacities. It is still necessary that the States seize the subject. In France, for example, communication from the government to call for a reduction in energy consumption is non-existent.
Thierry Breton also believes that it is the duty of energy companies to coordinate well with the Member States and in particular that they listen to the desire of certain countries wishing to extend the life of their nuclear power plants. He thus made explicit reference to Belgium, which intends to postpone for ten years the closure of two of its nuclear power plants, currently operated by Engie.
However, the French group has made heavy demands for the maintenance of this activity. In particular, it asks the Belgian State to participate in the financing of the extension of the two power stations of Tihange and Doel and also wants it to become a co-operator of the nuclear installations in order to reduce the financial risks.
“It is a global plan and I call on everyone to take responsibility, in particular the energy companies », insisted Thierry Breton again, referring to the plan REpowerEU.
This plan at 300 billion euros, devised by Brussels, aims to get rid of some 155 billion cubic meters of Russian gas that the EU imports every year, ie around 40% of its total gas imports. This is based in particular on the reduction of our energy consumption, the diversification of our gas supplies, the acceleration of the deployment of renewable energies, in particular solar on the roof, and massive investments.
Get out of Russian gas, even if it means taking the path of fuel oil and coal
The Commissioner for the Internal Market is therefore calling on major manufacturers to reduce their gas consumption by electrifying their processes, or even by using fuel oil, which is however a much more polluting fossil fuel.
As for the many countries that have decided to extend or reopen coal-fired power plants for electricity production, including FranceThierry Breton considered that it was “a temporary emergency”.
“We need to give ourselves the means to get out of our dependence on Russia as quickly as possible. If we keep them, they will be used against us »he warned. “We need a total exit from Russian hydrocarbons, including gas »he supported.
If the members of the Union have succeeded in agreeing on embargoes on coal and oil Russians, within the framework of various packages of sanctions, the French commissioner recognized that it was ” more complicated for gas, in particular due to “volumes imported by Germany and Italy “.
“We were able to find elements of solidarity to move forward together, we must continue, it is our strength “, he pleaded, believing that there was no “good and less good ” member countries. “We are all Europeans, we all have the same problem, we have to solve it all together “, he added.
Towards a pooling of investments
Thierry Breton thus defends a pooling of investments in the energy system in order to accelerate the development of clean energies, but also electrical interconnections between member countries. According to him, the Union must invest around 500 billion euros per year until 2030 in the energy system. Investments deemed “considerable”.
“We must invest very massively in the distribution of electricity, but also in gas infrastructures, provided that they can also be used to transport hydrogen “, he specified. The Commissioner also recalled the work of the Commission on the possibility of buying and storing gas in common.
“Of course, the energy mix remains entirely in the hands of states, like health policies. But, in the event of a crisis, we see that the only possible response is a response at the continental level”, he underlined.
In addition, Thierry Breton assured that “Things are starting to move at the European Commission ”, concerning France’s proposal to reform the European electricity market, whose pricing mechanism has been widely criticized since the gas crisis. Indeed, its operation is based on the marginal cost of the last plant called to satisfy demand. However, it is often a gas plant, the price of which has soared. This contributes to soaring electricity prices.
“A study is being finalized. It still needs further clarification »he specified.
Open lithium mines in Europe?
Another field of reflection: the securing of supply chains, particularly in renewable energies. The commission is thus working on a “legislative architecture to strengthen European supply chains.
The European green pact indeed implies a massive deployment of solar, wind and also electric vehicles, all of which depend on critical materials. Europe has, for example, 20 gigafactory projects dedicated to the production of batteries, but these depend on lithium, all of which is now refined in China, points out the European Commissioner. He therefore wonders about the possibility of creating lithium refineries on the Old Continent and even of opening lithium mines, particularly in Portugal, where there are many deposits of this metal, which is decisive for the energy transition.
More generally, Brussels is working on mapping the quarantine of critical components “where we want to secure the value chain », specifies Thierry Breton. In this context, “you have to know how to create positive power relations to limit your dependencies », says the commissioner.
“The internal market is a very strong geopolitical argument. No one wants to deprive themselves of the European internal market”he points.