BRUSSELS, February 25, 2015 – The presentation of its strategic framework for an Energy Union is an important milestone for the new European Commission. It is also just the beginning of a crucial debate about Europe's future. There is no shortage of challenges as the European Union prepares to launch a much-needed Energy Union. However, playing to Europe’s strengths will give us the confidence and inspiration to deliver a secure, low-carbon and competitive energy system.
The Commission lists the well-known difficult circumstances in which the EU finds itself: an over-dependence on external supplies, outdated energy infrastructure, an incomplete and dysfunctional internal market, and the high price of energy compared to other regions and competing global markets. "We at Westinghouse do not underestimate the challenges ahead, but we also believe that there is another, more positive way to look at our current situation. The European Union has at least four reasons to be optimistic about its energy future," commented Yves Brachet, Westinghouse President, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Mr. Brachet’s reasons for optimism are outlined below.
1. With 790 Mtoe (one million tonnes of oil equivalent), the European Union today produces nearly half of its own consumption in the EU. What is more, 53 percent of this energy comes from low carbon renewable and nuclear sources, providing the basis of Europe’s energy security. Across the 28 member states, hydro, wind and solar energy capacity, along with 131 nuclear reactors, produce 24 percent and 29 percent respectively of the EU’s domestic energy - with no CO2 emissions. This is a solid basis for Europe’s transition to a low-carbon society.
2. Europe has an extensive existing network to transport energy. Our electricity grid may be in dire need of upgrading, but the fact is we are not starting from zero. A lot of what is required to meet our future needs already exists. This is a tremendous asset that needs to be maintained and improved, which can also avoid investments in redundant capacity.
3. The EU is home to a number of leading energy players that are able to compete in regional and global markets, creating high value, sustainable jobs in the EU and assisting non-EU countries to improve their energy security. For example, Westinghouse’s nuclear fuel facility in Sweden now also supplies fuel to an increasing number of nuclear power plants in Ukraine. It’s just one example of how Europeans are helping an important neighbouring country to diversify its energy supplies and thereby contribute to greater energy security. Maintaining an internationally competitive energy industry is therefore essential if the EU is to play a stronger role on the international scene.
4. With a population of over 500 million people, over seven percent of the world’s population, the EU is a vast market for energy producers and energy services. Maximizing the strengths of its domestic market and a strong industry will help make the EU an energy-efficient, low-carbon and increasingly electrified society. To make this happen, we need human ingenuity, technological innovation and targeted investments.
Brachet added: "Building on our indigenous European strengths, we can move forward in a more a resource-efficient and cost-effective way. Yes, we need to build new low-carbon energy production facilities to replace outdated unabated fossil fuel generation, but we also need to maximise our existing assets, such as infrastructure and plants, by making intelligent and cost-effective upgrades and interconnections in Europe that can help to better meet the varied needs of each member state.
In the face of significant challenges, the Juncker Commission has an opportunity to connect, upgrade and develop a modern EU energy system, which is an essential building block for a stronger and more prosperous Europe. Westinghouse will play a part in the creation of a sustainable and innovative Energy Union that can inject a renewed sense of pride in Europe's strength and will meet the challenges, now and in the years ahead.”
Westinghouse Electric Company, a group company of Toshiba Corporation (TKY:6502), is the world's pioneering nuclear energy company and is a leading supplier of nuclear plant products and technologies to utilities throughout the world. Westinghouse supplied the world's first pressurized water reactor in 1957 in Shippingport, Pa., U.S. Today, Westinghouse technology is the basis for approximately one-half of the world's operating nuclear plants, including more than 50 percent of those in Europe.