BRUSSELS May 2 Energy security, power markets
and sustainable urban development top the agenda at talks on
Thursday between European Commission bosses and visiting Chinese
officials, led by Vice Premier Li Keqiang, as both sides
scramble for supplies and market share.
Beijing and the European Union, China's leading trade
partner, launched regular dialogue on energy in 2005 on the
margins of one of a series of EU-China summits.
"It is important to position the EU from the very start as a
'must-go' partner for all energy security-related issues," a
Commission note said.
"China has become a key player in the global energy markets
and is making impressive infrastructure investments outside its
Six priority areas for dialogue have been identified -
renewable energy, smart grids, energy efficiency in the building
sector, clean coal, nuclear energy and energy law.
The next EU-China summit is set for the end of the year, and
the Commission is keen for progress on the energy debate by
As well as high-level energy talks, Thursday's discussions
are to launch an initiative on "cooperation on urbanisation", as
China's rapid development provides an opportunity to build
sustainably, with intelligent infrastructure.
The EU, by contrast, has been struggling to agree on energy
saving law that would enforce renovation of existing buildings.
Joint declarations will on Thursday be signed on energy
security, cooperation on electricity markets and sustainable
urbanisation, the Commission said.
The following looks at some of the overlapping energy issues
in sharpest focus.
VYING OVER CENTRAL ASIA?
The EU is seeking access to gas from Central Asia, to curb
its dependence on dominant supplier Russia.
Shipping gas from Turkmenistan would require a pipeline
across the Caspian, which has been a dream for decades, but
first demands a solution to an intractable sovereignty dispute.
A next round of negotiations on the Trans-Caspian pipeline
is scheduled to take place between the Commission and
representatives of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on Friday.
Russia has no desire for a trans-Caspian link that could
dilute its energy power or limit its ability to play one market
off against another, analysts say.
Prior to the Brussels talks, Vice Premier Li, who is on
track to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao, visited Moscow at the
weekend, when Chinese officials signalled they were keen to
pursue a major gas deal with Russia.
Frustrated by a protracted failure to agree on pricing with
Russia, China has been buying extra gas from the former Soviet
state of Turkmenistan.
RIVALS ON RENEWABLE ENERGY/SOLAR?
The EU has been a leader in renewable energy, partly to
limit its carbon emissions and partly to ensure security of
Its companies are interested in doing business with China,
but China is winning the green race and snatching market share.
Solar panels have become a hot topic as some European firms
have urged action to fight off competition from cheaper Chinese
products, perhaps through trade action and defensive duties.
Others have said a better way to save European jobs could be
for EU firms to learn from China, whose strength is scale.
Claude Turmes, a member of the European Parliament and
energy spokesman for the Greens, said the Commission, the EU's
executive, should use funding to create large plants in Europe.
He suggested a tender for one or two solar cell
manufacturing units of more than 2,500 megawatts, which in
contrast to Europe's "overly dispersed and outdated
manufacturing facilities" could compete successfully with China.
He also cited China's meticulous planning for developing the
solar industry, which Europe has yet to match.
"Increasingly, there is a move to give an industrial policy
dimension to renewable energy policies," he said, referring to
China and impressing on Europe the need to do the same.
Externally, Europe also needs to develop its strategy and
the Commission needs "to vastly increase the attention it gives
to renewable energy under external policies", Turmes said.
CLASH OVER CLIMATE?
China is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.
In Durban in December, it agreed in principle to enter the
Kyoto process for limiting global warming.
Analysts say it is far more committed to winning a green
technology race than any international system, in which the EU
has played a prominent role.
China has clashed with the Commission over EU law to make
all airlines entering EU airports offset carbon under the EU
Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
Its objections are based on what it sees as an encroachment
on its sovereignty and the establishment of the principle all
polluters are treated equally, as opposed to the idea emerging
markets should not bear the same burden as the developed world.
It is, however, working on its own ETS and has said it will
use revenue from a passenger tax on international flights to cut
Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard is not taking part in
Thursday's talks, so the ETS argument is not expected to be
(editing by Jane Baird)