Last week, my lead researcher in Brussels, Francesca Salierno, an Italian lawyer who has worked with me for three and a half years, was invited to a briefing session and debate on “The European Energy Union”. The event was designed for parliamentary assistants, and was sponsored by BP and supported by the European Commission. Francesca knew what to expect, but decided it would be worthwhile attending anyway.
Francesca has been working with me on energy issues for all those years, and just about anything that I know about energy, she knows too. And she has very little hesitation in stating her views. I asked her to write up some notes on the event. Apparently the European Commission representative was not best impressed by her comments — and nor were a number of other assistants from the Industry & Energy Committee. But like me, Francesca is finding that it’s very satisfying to be counter-consensual — especially when you know what you’re talking about, and have a clear and confident grasp of energy issues. I asked her to write a few paragraphs about her experience.
On Friday 6th March I attended an energy debate with assistants and policy advisors to which I was invited by BP . The debate was mainly focused on the Energy Union proposal of the new Junker Commission. The Commission’s Director for Energy policy, Mrs Worsdorfer, was there to present the Commission’s new energy plan. Representative of the Industry was Mr Haton from BP.
The debate was very lively and interesting. I was quite amused by the fact that, after having mentioned the group I represented, some in the room told me few times I wasn’t there to necessarily represent the group position, but my own. So I did.
After listening to both the Commission and the Industry presentations, I found myself quite on side on many things that Mr Haton said. However, as I often find, I did not agree with many of the things said by the Commission.
Mrs Worsdorfer proudly introduced the Commission’s action plan on Energy Union. She emphasised what she saw as the essential role of renewable energy, saying that not enough has been done in that area. She also listed the Commission’s priorities for the coming years in the field of energy: “Diversifying energy sources, amplifying European security of supply and reinforcing European competitiveness”.
The debate was then opened and colleagues of other groups raised reasonable questions. I then asked to have a word. I thanked both speakers and told the European commission representative that I did have a few points unclear in my mind not as policy advisor, as many times said, but as European Citizen.
I started mentioning to the Commission that, despite completely agreeing with the need of diversified energy sources in Europe, I thought that the European Commission decided not to diversify but to amplify the use of renewable energy sources in Europe. I have then asked how the Commission could justify the incoherence between the aimed goal of a security of supply in Europe and the robust legislative implementation on renewable energy sources, which are not reliable as they need constant back-up. I finally asked how the Commission could talk of a need to reinforce European Competitiveness if Europe had to depend on expensive renewables, and I concluded by mentioning that other Countries like India and China are building large numbers of coal-fired power stations without worrying too much about CO2 emissions.
The Commission replied saying that “everyone agrees with a larger use of renewable energy”, that people should read more statistics on the topic and China’s commitment to fighting Climate Change is now evident. I restated my position but quite in vain, as I could not elicit substantive answers.
Despite a problem of communication with the Commission that does not depend on different mother tongues, I found the debate organised by BP very interesting. I would definitely participate again.