FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Policies governing the European Union’s drive towards a low- carbon economy should not lose sight of the need to retain the bloc’s industrial base, Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in a newspaper column on Monday.
“Europe should think about adding a fourth goal to the three 20-20-20 energy-related ones up to the year 2020,” Oettinger wrote in the business daily Handelsblatt.
The bloc’s goals are a planned 20 percent hike in energy efficiency, a 20 percent cut in CO2 emissions and reaching a 20 percent share of renewables in energy usage by 2020.
“(Europe) ... should make (another) permanent goal a 20 percent industrial contribution to gross domestic product (by 2020),” Oettinger said.
This share had sunk to 18 percent in 2010 from around 22 percent in 2000. “We need a strategy for the re-industrialization of Europe,” he said.
Oettinger said Europe was too dependent on energy imports - its main natural gas supplier is Russia and its oil comes mainly from the Middle East - and therefore had to ensure efficient energy production and usage, to help stand up to competitors such as the United States where gas prices have plummeted.
Electricity would become the EU’s main energy benchmark as it would expand its share in fuelling transport, Oettinger said, adding Europe needed a policy “that considered that security of supply and affordability of power are a decisive location factor in the global context,” he wrote.
Oettinger, a German national, echoed rising concern about runaway power prices in his home country, where subsidizing of fast-expanding green power is burdening industrial and household consumers.
This has already caused a government rethink on, and subsequent cuts to, solar power.
Environment Minister Peter Altmaier told the mass circulation Bild am Sonntag on Sunday he was skeptical about some important goals of Germany’s energy U-turn, put in place last year in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In particular, Altmaier doubted whether power usage could be cut by 10 percent up to 2020, which the government had stipulated along with goals to get out of nuclear energy fast in favor of green power.
Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by David Holmes