Commisioner says UK energy industry needs EU

1 March 2013
By Edward Gent
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Europe's Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger says the UK needs 'more European projects, not fewer'

Europe's Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger says the UK needs 'more European projects, not fewer'

The UK needs the European Union to export its lucrative energy resources efficiently, according to Europe's Energy Commissioner.

It must move beyond its debate about "EU budget cuts and lost sovereignty" and focus on the benefits of the union for the UK's energy market, said Gunther Oettinger, the German politician who leads the energy portfolio at the EU's governing body.

The UK, and Scotland in particular, has energy resources "few countries elsewhere can even dream of" but they cannot deal with modern energy challenges on their own, he said in a speech at a Scottish Energy Institute dinner in Aberdeen.

His warning over a focus on "lost sovereignty" comes amid growing support for Eurosceptic party Ukip, which came second in the Eastleigh by-election sparked by the resignation of former UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to hold an EU referendum if the Conservatives win the next general election, while the Scottish Government hopes to start renegotiating its place in Europe as an independent country next year, although its prospective terms of membership are uncertain.

Mr Oettinger said: "The debate in the UK might revolve around EU budget cuts and lost sovereignty. But in energy, this is wrong. When it comes to investment in infrastructure, we need more money, not less. More European projects, not fewer. Everyone can win from the EU: consumers, industry and governments."

Scotland could be on the verge of becoming "an energy powerhouse of Europe", with half of its energy already generated by renewables, he said, and the North Sea Offshore Grid could link Scotland to a Europe-wide energy network stretching from Ireland to Poland.

"No single member state, no company and certainly no region can deal with today's energy challenges on its own. But in the EU, we have the political means, the economic muscle and the technology networks. Europe can help the UK and of course Scotland re-emerge on the European map as a reliable and powerful energy neighbour," he said.

"Seeing Aberdeen and seeing what you do in energy production, energy technology, energy finance and energy planning, I have real hope for the future.

"Times are hard at the moment but the spirit of this place is unique. A place for business, a place for fresh ideas, a place for vision and a place which makes the idea of a European energy market all the more meaningful.

"Europe has the market you need for your great export product: energy. And we will help you to produce and export it safely, efficiently and sustainably.

"Let us not harbour the idea of Scotland as an outpost, perched on the edge of Europe. When it comes to energy, Scotland and Aberdeen is a major player. Your energy resources and the integrative power of the European energy market together will help Scotland and UK to be an essential part of the EU."

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