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EU plan to merge member states' energy markets

An ambitious plan to intertwine the European Union’s 28 national energy markets has been unveiled today in an attempt to establish a single energy market and loosen Russia’s grip on Europe’s gas supplies.

The proposed move could save business and consumers up to £29bn a year. European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic hailed it as “undoubtedly the most ambitious energy project” in the history of the EU.

Improving links across borders in Europe’s energy grid would reinstate the power of Brussels against national energy regulators; boost consumer choice when opting for a supplier; attract further investment in energy infrastructure and might even include an alternative pipeline.

“Consumers in one member state should be able to buy their energy freely and simply from a company in another. This requires the further adaptation of the current national regulatory frameworks,” the document said.

Talking about the advantages included in the 19-page draft blueprint of the project, Sefcovic said that it will integrate all 28 energy markets into “one Energy Union” and will “make Europe less energy dependent”.

Figures from the commission show that the EU is currently the largest energy importer in the world, getting 53 per cent of its energy from elsewhere at an annual cost of £293bn.

About 40 per cent of Europe’s natural gas is supplied by Russia, half of it via pipelines through conflict-torn Ukraine, and the proposed project could be a step towards reducing that dependency on Kremlin.

“Achieving this goal will require a fundamental transformation of Europe’s energy system … an energy union that speaks with one voice in global affairs… a single energy market,” the document said.

Brussels has repeatedly raised concerns over Moscow increasingly exerting undue influence on Europe’s energy supply.

As E&T news reported, feuds between the two led in December to the cancellation of the multi-billion dollar South Stream energy pipeline that was due to provide 63 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas a year to Europe from Russia via the Black Sea.

Sefcovic said an alternative pipeline could be built pumping gas from the Caspian basin via Turkey. It would carry Russian gas, but it could also include supplies from Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iraq and Iran.

The proposals need to be redacted into separate pieces of legislation by 2019 before being approved. However, the project is already facing resistance from some national governments and environmental groups, which said it focused too much on Russia and fossil fuels rather than renewable energy sources.

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