Policy brief

The European Union energy transition: key priorities for the next five years

The new members of the European Parliament and European Commission who start their mandates in 2019 should put in place major policy elements to unlea

Publishing date
08 July 2019

The issue
Over the last decade, the European Union has pursued a proactive climate policy and has integrated a significant amount of renewable technologies – such as solar and wind – into the established energy system. These efforts have proved successful and continuing along this pathway, increasing renewables and improving energy efficiency would not require substantial policy shifts. But the EU now needs a much deeper energy transformation to: i) decarbonise in line with the Paris agreement; ii) seize the economic and industrial opportunities offered by this global transformation; and iii) develop an EU approach to energy competitiveness and security, as the EU has neither the United States’ shale potential nor China’s top-down investment possibilities.

Policy challenge
A full-fledged energy transition is becoming economically and technically feasible, with most of the necessary technologies now available and technology costs declining. The cost of the transition would be similar to that of maintaining the existing system, if appropriate policies and regulations are put in place. In short, the EU could benefit from deep decarbonisation irrespective of what other economies around the world do. The transition can also be socially acceptable, if the right policies are put in place to control and mitigate the distributional effects of deeper decarbonisation. The time to act is now, because energy is a rigid system in which infrastructure and regulatory changes take a decade to be fully implemented, while competition is not sleeping – as Chinese solar panels and the rise of the electric vehicles industry clearly show. Policy choices made up to 2024 will define the shape of the EU energy system by 2050.

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 Adjunct professor of Energy, Climate and Environmental Policy at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and at The Johns Hopkins University - School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Europe.

    His research focuses on the European Union climate and energy policy and on the political economy of global decarbonisation. With a record of numerous policy and scientific publications, he is the author of Global Energy Fundamentals (Cambridge University Press, 2020), L’Energia del Mondo (Il Mulino, 2020) and Energy Relations in the Euro-Mediterranean (Palgrave, 2017).

    His columns and policy work are published and cited in leading international media such as the Financial Times, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, Die Zeit, Corriere della Sera, Il Sole 24 Ore and others.

    Simone 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.

  • Ottmar Edenhofer

    Ottmar Edenhofer is Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Professor for the Economics of Climate Change at the Technical University Berlin as well as founding director of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC). Furthermore, he is a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and of the National Academy of Science and Engineering acatech. From 2008 to 2015 he served as Co-Chair of Working Group III of the IPCC, shaping the Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change Mitigation substantially.

     

  • Jean-Michel Glachant

    Jean-Michel Glachant is the Director of the Florence School of Regulation and the Holder of the Loyola de Palacio Chair.

    Glachant took his Ph.D. in economics at La Sorbonne in France. He worked in the industry and private sector before becoming professor at La Sorbonne.

    He has been advisor of DG TREN, DG COMP and DG RESEARCH at the European Commission and of the French Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE). He has been coordinator and scientific advisor of several European research projects. Jean-Michel Glachant has been editor-in-chief of EEEP: Economics of Energy and Environmental Policy (an IAEE journal) and he is a current member of the Council of the International Association for Energy Economics.

  • Pedro Linares

  • Andreas Loeschel

Related content