Blog post

An overview of Bruegel scholars’ contributions on Energy Union

Bruegel scholars have contributed numerous ideas to the Energy Union concept – and to all five dimensions of the policy package. Georg Zachmann and Si

Publishing date
03 December 2015

From the 2014 Ukraine-Russia crisis to the Paris climate conference, the last two years have seen a wide range of international issues take energy and climate to the top of the European policy agenda. The European Commission has proposed to address the situation within a holistic framework: the Energy Union.

Bruegel scholars have made numerous contributions to the overall framework, as well as to its five dimensions (energy security, an integrated energy market, energy efficiency, decarbonisation of the economy, and research and innovation). Given the complexity of the matter, we want to provide a structured overview of these policy proposals. It is important to note that Bruegel takes no institutional standpoint. Some of the contributions might be contradicting and even the selection summarised here is subjective.

The Energy Union Framework

In September 2014 Georg Zachmann published detailed Memos to the new Commissioners for Energy and Climate Change, setting out where Europe stood and what the new Commissioners’ priorities should be. These were swiftly followed in September by the paper Elements of Europe’s Energy Union, which brought together innovative policy suggestions related to the internal energy market, energy security, innovation, efficiency, and emissions - a structure that resembles that of the European Commission’s Energy Union proposal.

Supply Security

Security of supply became a key focus for energy work at Bruegel in the wake of the 2014 Ukraine-Russia crisis. Bruegel scholars responded with a piece on the potential effects of a cut in Russian gas supplies to the EU. We have since assessed the supply and risk potential of the European neighbourhood, looking into potential supplies and setbacks in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the Southern Gas Corridor, Iran, the Eastern Mediterranean and Algeria.

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Internal Energy Market

The persistent fragmentation of the energy sector and looming nationalisations in some member states are creating high costs for European consumers. Bruegel scholars have made concrete policy proposals to revamp the single market in energy. However, the far-reaching implications of strong integration policies and differences between national regulatory frameworks make progress towards truly integrated markets for gas and electricity slow.

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Energy Efficiency

Ambitious energy efficiency targets are part of the EU strategy for emissions reduction. Bruegel scholars are investigating the link between prices and energy consumption. They call for energy efficiency targets to be defined in terms of policy additionality – that is, how much energy is on aggregate saved through policy measures, and how much did these policies cost?

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Emissions Reduction

Bruegel fellows have assessed the efficiency and effectiveness of the EU emissions trading system (ETS). They argue that the ETS should be strengthened, and offer unconventional approaches to make the system more credible. Scholars have also discussed whether the benefits of border adjustment measures might outweigh their disadvantages. In order to achieve an international agreement on curbing emissions, the provision of viable Climate Finance is one crucial priority.

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Innovation in low-carbon technology

For systemic transformations, it is important to ensure a basic infrastructure to enable the diffusion of new technologies. Bruegel scholars argue that there are three ways to encourage innovation in low-carbon technology: pricing carbon, supporting the deployment of as-yet uncompetitive technologies, and backing research and development. Our fellows have assessed the policy options.

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About the authors

  • Georg Zachmann

    Georg Zachmann is a Senior Fellow at Bruegel, where he has worked since 2009 on energy and climate policy. His work focuses on regional and distributional impacts of decarbonisation, the analysis and design of carbon, gas and electricity markets, and EU energy and climate policies. Previously, he worked at the German Ministry of Finance, the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin, the energy think tank LARSEN in Paris, and the policy consultancy Berlin Economics.

  • Simone Tagliapietra

    Simone Tagliapietra is a Senior fellow at Bruegel. He is also a Professor of EU Energy and Climate Policy at The Johns Hopkins University - School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Europe.

    His research focuses on the EU climate and energy policy and on the political economy of global decarbonisation. With a record of numerous policy and scientific publications, also in leading journals such as Nature and Science, he is the author of Global Energy Fundamentals (Cambridge University Press, 2020) and co-author of The Macroeconomics of Decarbonisation (Cambridge University Press, 2024).

    His columns and policy work are widely published and cited in leading international media such as the BBC, CNN, Financial Times, The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Corriere della Sera, Le Monde, El Pais, and several others.

    Simone also is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Clean Air Task Force (CATF). He holds a PhD in Institutions and Policies from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Born in the Dolomites in 1988, he speaks Italian, English and French.

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