In its evaluation report on the state of play of the European Energy Union, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) warns that it is essential to accelerate developments in energy policies and asks the European Commission to adopt a number of specific economic, social and environmental measures.
The Energy Union must make quick progress to be able to take on the challenges and objectives of the European Green Deal. In its information report Evaluating the European Energy Union – The social and societal dimension of the energy transition, put together by Christophe Quarez and adopted at the July plenary, the EESC took stock of developments in 2019 regarding the Energy Union and stressed that improvements could still be made on several fronts.
During the debate, Mr Quarez underlined:
It is about time to take relevant action. There are 50 million households in a state of energy poverty in Europe and this is unacceptable. We support the Green Deal and its social dimension. However, the current state of play of the Energy Union tells us that the European Union must speed up progress, set up an effective energy dialogue with all actors involved and engage in measures to ensure high-quality information for the people of the EU on clean energy solutions.
Against this backdrop, the Committee puts forward a number of proposals. The priorities are, firstly, to clearly define the concept of energy poverty and, secondly, to introduce an ambitious annual 3% goal for renovation of buildings. The Committee therefore calls on the European Commission to frame proposals defining energy poverty and setting common indicators at EU level and, at the same time, supports EU and Member State initiatives to introduce ambitious renovation strategies with the goal of renovating 3% of buildings every year, thus facilitating innovation and creating many local jobs.
The EESC also points out that it is important to offer high-quality training for workers and to make the energy sector more attractive to young Europeans. More specifically, the EU and its Member States should support clean-economy start-ups, which were particularly badly-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing crisis.
Finally, with reference to fossil fuels, the Committee supports the EU's initiatives to anticipate and mitigate the inevitable economic and social consequences of the phasing-out of coal, in particular by tapping into the potential of the Platform for coal regions in transition. In this respect, the European Commission must create synergies with other EU initiatives, in particular the EU's research and innovation (R&I) missions on climate-neutral towns and cities, involving energy communities to assess how their innovation potential can contribute to a rapid, just and democratic energy transition. The Commission should also ensure that the EU directives on energy communities are properly transposed into national law so that these communities are fully recognised in every EU Member State.