Energy security: Solidarity principle is more important than ever

Last February, the European Commission presented a review of the 2010 security of gas supply regulation, on which I acted as shadow rapporteur for the European Parliament’s S&D group.

Security of gas supply is an important but often ignored issue. From when we wake up in the morning, turn on the lights, have breakfast, switch on the heating or air-conditioning, go to work and come back home – energy is often taken for granted.

However, our dependence on external resources is a cause for concern, with the EU importing 65 per cent of its gas from Russia, Norway and Algeria at a cost of €400bn each year.

The high dependence on external resources, such as Russia, illustrates the need to implement strong EU safeguards to maintain our energy security. It further highlights the need to diversify our energy mix and put a strong emphasis on energy efficiency and building renovation.

Through the old 2010 security of gas supply regulation, all EU member states have preventive action plans and emergency plans to deal with crises.

However, these plans are still insufficient as national policies fail to account for supply security in neighbouring countries as well as potential external risks.

As shadow rapporteur on this review, I am proud to say that for the first time, the solidarity principle will apply. In the case of a serious gas supply crisis, EU countries will have to help their neighbours out in order to prevent households, district heating and essential social services going without gas.

The solidarity principle includes three levels of supply crisis – early warning, alert and emergency. Using these measures, member states will be able to communicate to the Commission and competent authorities their status to undertake risk assessments and joint preventative plans.

Further measures enable the Commission to request access to gas supply contracts that are important for security of supply. The Commission can also ask for information on other commercial agreements that relate to gas supply contracts, including gas infrastructure contracts.

Closer regional cooperation among European countries on preventative and emergency measures is the best way to ensure security of gas supply.

Today, more than ever, we need to continue our belief in strong cooperation and solidarity to make us collectively more energy secure, bring energy bills down and tackle climate change. Access to energy is a social right; we have to protect our environment and our most vulnerable citizens.