ECONOMY

Changing energy map augments Greece’s role

The energy sector is now marked by fast and sweeping changes worldwide. The competitive new environment is marked by modern trends in deregulation, developing infrastructure facilities for control and transportation, and increasing demands by consumers for new services. The geopolitical changes of recent years have created the conditions for a new economic zone in southeastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, with extensions to the Black Sea and the Caucasus. New energy routes cross this region while economic development is taking root as countries integrate into Euro-Atlantic structures. If this development is linked with intra-European networks, then Europe can acquire a new strategic advantage and can also contribute to regional development and stability. Greece has a significant role to play in this context; for the first time, the country is acquiring a wider geo-economic interest. Together with its important new geo-strategic role in the region, it is one of Greece’s two main comparative advantages in the near future. Green Paper The basic goal of the EU’s energy policy, as laid out in the Green Paper of November 2000, is security in energy supplies to all consumers at affordable cost, with parallel protection of the environment and the promotion of competition. The EU is up against new challenges in the energy sector and it needs an appropriate strategy to deal with them. The Kyoto Protocol for climate change in 1997 underscored the importance of the environmental dimension and the principles of sustainable development in the Community’s energy policy. The EU is becoming increasingly dependent on external energy sources, and today 50 percent of its total energy requirements are met by imports. As the Green Paper points out, if current trends continue, this dependence will grow more acute, making the EU’s position in the global energy market more vulnerable. The creation of a single internal market is key to EU energy policy and the European Commission’s goal in this field is for the Union to acquire the most efficient, secure and competitive energy market possible. The effort is accompanied by measures designed to boost economic and social cohesion, such as the creation of intra-European energy networks. The implementation of such networks has consequences in terms of EU relations with third countries. Some links have already been forged with a number of countries in the Mediterranean, central and eastern Europe, and with Norway. This target was actively promoted by the Greek presidency in the first half of the year. At the same time, the energy produced by renewable energy sources (RES) plays a prominent role in ensuring the differentiation and sustainability of energy sources and in the fight against climatic change. The Green Paper stressed for the first time the importance of intervening on the demand side rather than focusing only on supply. To reduce dependence, the rise in demand must be restricted, mainly with the help of legislative measures; the Green Paper proposed some. In the framework set by the Kyoto Protocol, Community strategy stressed the importance of improving energy efficiency. Given that 40 percent of all energy is consumed in the transport sector, which is responsible for 28 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, the Green Paper stressed the need for intervention. The Commission’s White Paper «European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide,» issued in September 2001, contains 60 proposals and is crucial in the effort to change current trends in transport usage, where oil accounts for 98 percent of energy consumed. Sustainable development During its term, the Greek presidency also oversaw the introduction of a new directive by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers promoting the use of bio-fuels and other RES in the transport sector, including the so-called «bio-hydrogen,» that is, hydrogen produced from biomass or biodegradable waste. The advantages of hydrogen are clear, as it is available everywhere and in limitless quantities. However, its extraction remains problematic due to high costs; the same is true for the high-power engines needed to use it. Greece has a tremendous wind power potential that remains largely untapped, but which can make a substantial contribution to the country’s energy balance; according to conservative estimates, it can cover up to 15 percent of Greece’s electricity requirements and reduce atmospheric pollution by at least 8 percent, while also creating new jobs, strengthening hived-off development, reducing dependence on imported fuels, and promoting the growth of know-how, technology and construction. About 53 million euros were spent under the EU-subsidized CSF II investment plan for 18 wind parks, of which 14 are in operation. Greece is capable of playing a prominent role in the framework of EU energy policy. This goal can be achieved in the current decade. (1) Yiannis Magriotis is Deputy Foreign Minister