Increasing demand for energy, volatile prices, disruptions to supply and a desire to minimise environmental impact all make a clear EU strategy on energy essential. The result is a policy with three axes: ensuring security of supply, competitiveness and sustainability.

EU targets

The policy is built upon what is known as the ‘20-20-20’ targets, to be met by 2020 :

  • Reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions to at least 20% below 1990 levels;
  • Ensuring 20% of energy consumed within the EU comes from renewable sources;
  • Reducing primary energy use by 20% in comparison with projected levels – to be achieved through energy efficiency.

EU leaders have also offered to increase the EU’s emission reductions still further – to 30% - if other major emitters in both developed and developing countries commit to doing their fair share.

The 20-20-20 strategy is complemented by the ‘Roadmap 2050’. The document presents different scenarios, laying out the various paths that could be taken to meet the goals. The Roadmap falls under the EU’s long-term strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050, while at the same time securing supply and maintaining competitiveness.

International agreements and initiatives

To ensure security of supply, the EU has a series of agreements with non-EU countries. They range from energy provisions within bilateral agreements and specific agreements on energy cooperation to multilateral treaties. Dialogues are in place with Russia, Norway, the USA, India, China and OPEC. New pipelines are being built or are under consideration, such as the Trans-Anatolia Gas Pipeline, which will bring gas from Azerbaijan to the EU.

The EU is also promoting access to sustainable energy beyond its borders. The Europe-China Clean Energy Centre is supporting the Chinese government as it shapes a more sustainable, environmentally friendly and efficient energy sector. The European Commission also has an initiative to ensure energy access for all by 2030.

Energy in the EU

At home, the EU wishes to fully integrate its member states' energy markets s by 2014 so as to provide consumers and businesses with more and better products and services, increased competition and more secure supplies. To increase efficiency, the European Commission has proposed measures focusing on public transport and the building sectors, where the potential for savings is greatest.

There are 147 nuclear reactors providing energy within the EU. ‘Stress tests’ were carried out on each of these in 2011, leading to a report recommending areas for action to improve safety. The tests were instigated following the accident in Fukushima, Japan, arising from the earthquake and tsunami.