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Thursday, 10 February 2011

Europe moves to stabilize its energy supplies

European leaders agreed on Friday to give unprecedented leeway to the bloc’s executive agency to help negotiate contracts with energy exporters like Russia in an effort to improve security of supplies and safeguard investment. There is “a need for better coordination” among European Union countries and for more coherence in “relations with key producer, transit and consumer countries,” the leaders said in a statement at the close of a one-day meeting in Brussels. Negotiations over energy supply and prices are now left to individual member states. But energy deals are a concern for the entire European Union, which has 27 members and imports more than half of its energy, with about 40 percent of its natural gas coming from Russia. […] Under the agreement reached Friday, the European Union energy commissioner, Günther Oettinger, is expected to present a formal proposal in June giving the European Commission, the union’s executive arm, the power to help member states reach contracts with Russia and other governments if the deals are significant enough to affect the bloc’s energy security.  Mr. Oettinger’s mandate would also extend to other sources of energy, like electricity from renewable sources. That would give European companies investing in solar projects in countries like Morocco and Tunisia added security because the commission could impose trade sanctions on those countries if there were any attempt to confiscate facilities in the event of political instability. Giving the commission a role in such negotiations would also allow it to make sure such agreements mandate common standards for technologies of the future, so that electricity from solar farms outside the bloc can easily be integrated into a European grid.  That could increase the willingness of banks and utilities to invest in a project called Desertec, which would harvest the sun’s energy using a method known as concentrating solar power from the vast North African desert and deliver it as electricity, via high-voltage transmission lines, to markets in Europe.

Source: New York Times