Speech by Professor Jerzy Buzek President of the European Parliament 'European Energy Alliance: First Annual Congress'
Dear Commissioner Oettinger,
Dear Commissioner Tajani,
When I am asked what is the most import joint policy for the European Union today, I answer without hesitation - Energy. We import 54% of our energy. Most of it from neighbouring countries which are located in unstable areas of the world.
Only Denmark from among our 27 Member States is a net exporter of energy. We have to say it clearly - we are dependent on third countries when it comes to energy. We must become independent.
And we have to do this sooner rather than later. Three years ago we were in the same situation. Then, like today, a barrel of oil went from USD 25 to over USD 100. But when the prices fell back down, we simply forgot. How many times will we start from the beginning?
Last week the former Saudi Minister of Energy, Sheik Yamani argued that in the future we should expect our oil to cost between USD 200 - 300 a barrel. Our economies can not operate on such costs.
Three years ago, as rapporteur for the SET plan, I argued for €10 billion for energy research projects. Today I would argue for €20 billion. Yes, we did find some €4 billion for concrete projects - wind and solar farms, CCS and energy bridges, but we also have to invest in research and new technologies. That is where the long term investments should also be.
To achieve energy independence we need to not only change the kind of energy we use, but also the way we use energy. This is why the SET Plan is so important. Without new technologies, we will not be able to make the leap forward we need.
I would like to raise two points today.
The first is that we all know we need to reduce our CO2 emissions, but we must do this in a way that we can remain competitive. I personally do not see a contradiction in this. Prosperity and green economy should and can be linked. In February we organised a Summit with The Prince of Wales's EU Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change where we coined the phrase "Low Carbon Prosperity". This is what the future has to be for the EU - low carbon prosperity.
I am convinced that the new technologies we need, and the green revolution which is happening, are an opportunity for the EU and a challenge, but not a threat.
As legislators, we have to create the right legal and economic framework. A framework which encourages research institutes, companies, and governments to invest in new technologies.
The European Parliament has argued for the need to propose incentives for low cost, low emission energy technologies. But I would go one step further. We need to shift our political priorities and make energy as important as transport, defence, agriculture, or any of the other priorities each nation has.
I know that this is sometimes difficult since energy requires long term investments which are often not seen to benefit consumers directly. It is often easier to invest in roads and transport but today, it is as important to open pipelines and power stations.
My second point is that we need to invest more in energy research and innovations. In this time of economic crisis, we need to make the political commitment that we will not cut back our budgets. Energy has to be the core of the 8th Research Framework programme.
Money spent on research and development is not money wasted, but invested. There is some risk in such investments but we know there is no progress without accepting some risks. This is why we have developed in the 7th Framework Programme the "Risk Sharing Finance Facility". It is money we need to turn the EU into an innovative economy, and one which uses innovative energy in particular. One which may create hundreds of thousands of new skilled jobs.
However, we need to be smart about how we invest this money. I am convinced that we need to also fund risky medium and long-term applied research. I am a scientist and I know that it is only through trial and error that we can get the breakthrough we need. The risky idea can create new industries. The next Microsoft is waiting to be found.
This is why we need your advise on which projects - even if they are risky - that we should be investing in. You have the expertise; more than 1000 researchers from over 70 countries are working in your programmes.
We also need to adjust our financing so that our public grants and loans, are designed in an SME-friendly manner. The European Parliament has called in its last resolution for an increase in money earmarked for SMEs. They are the backbone of our economies.
I would like to end with two final remarks.
After the tsunami hit Japan, concerns were raised about the safety of our nuclear power stations. This is one of the actions in the SET Plan and we need to introduce it as soon as possible. However, we also need to start thinking of creating the fourth generation of nuclear power stations.
We also have an energy source we need to invest in far more - shale gas. Recent surveys show that this may become a very important part of our energy mix, so the issue of CCS in the SET Plan becomes even more important.
In order for us to become independent in energy, we will have to use existing energy sources. But with innovations and new technologies, we will be able to use these energy sources to their full potential. This is why the investments done in the SET plan are crucial.
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