New EU energy plan focuses on more connections between States, renewables and tougher negotiations with suppliers

Aspects of Jean-Claude Juncker’s plan criticised by Green Party and by Greenpeace

A new EU strategy on energy has proposed more electricity interconnections between countries, more focus on renewable energy and a tougher negotiating stance with suppliers, including Russia and the Middle East.

The policy is a major plank of the approach of new EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who announced the plan in Brussels yesterday.

Ireland is singled out as one of the states which is not sufficiently connected with other EU countries. Interconnectors are underground or sub-marine power cables, capable of bringing power across borders from one country to another.

Ireland has yet to attain 10 per cent interconnectivity, the 2020 target set for all EU countries. At present there is an interconnection with Wales. Interconnectors linking Ireland to France are part of the plans for the State's future energy needs.

Announcing the strategy Mr Juncker said: "For too long, energy has been exempt from the fundamental freedoms of our union. Current events show the stakes – as many Europeans fear they may not have the energy needed to heat their homes. I want the energy that underpins our economy to be resilient, reliable, secure and growingly renewable and sustainable."

The commission has now also said it wants a “tougher strategy” for EU governments in their negotiations with third country suppliers of gas, in particular.

Climate agreement

The announcement also sets out the commission’s views on a global climate agreement in Paris in December.

However, the paper has met with muted reaction in Ireland. Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said that Ireland and the UK had been excluded from one of the proposals, the promotion of new regional energy markets. "Our Government has once again dropped the ball on climate and energy policy. None of the initiatives involve Ireland in any progressive way."

He also claimed the Government had made a “complete mess” of the development and negotiation of the trading of renewable power across the Irish Sea.

Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser Tara Connolly was critical of the overall plan: "The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing with this plan. The commission says the EU should move away from fossil fuels but it also wants to chase after new gas supplies and doesn't rule out coal. Europe needs a coherent, joined-up plan if it's going to play its part against climate change."

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times