- Europe depends on energy imports when it comes to oil, gas and electricity.
- Renewable energy initiatives like solar and photovoltaic production are present, but not widespread.
- Pipelines under construction in the Balkans underline Europe‚Äôs aim to diversify supply sources, but also its likely long-term reliance on imports.
- Natural gas in liquefied form is increasingly imported from Maghreb countries, offering more supply alternatives to Europe.
Observations for policy
Europe depends on energy imports, with most of its resources in terms of gas, oil and electricity coming from neighbours such as the Maghreb countries or Russia. Within Europe, most fossil fuels are available through Norway, Europe‚Äôs largest exporter of oil and gas. Further oil and gas pipeline projects in the Balkans testify to the long-term reliance of Europe on external sources, but also to its aim to diversify supply. European fossil fuel sources such as the oil and gas fields in the North Sea and along Norway‚Äôs coast are increasingly complemented by renewable energy production through solar (in Southern Spain) and photovoltaic (in eastern Germany) energy. In particular for solar energy, the map shows potential for such production in Southern Europe, and EU-wide strategy documents such as the Europe 2020 strategy and the 2014 ‚Äď 2020 Cohesion Policy aim to support this.
The European energy dependency on its neighbours is addressed by the Europe 2020 ‚ÄúSustainable Growth‚Äú priorities such with the 20/20/20 targets and flagship initiatives like ‚ÄúResource-efficient Europe‚Äú. These policies aim at making the European economy consume less energy, produce more via renewable sources and avoid high-emissions energy sources.
According to the 6th Cohesion Report, the currently low price of fuel is a deterrent for investments in renewable energy, and a cause for the dysfunction of the Emissions Trading System. Nevertheless, energy security and competitiveness is supported through the ‚ā¨5.1b allocated for energy projects within the Connecting Europe Facility. This is complemented by policy measures for reducing energy use in heating such as the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive adopted in 2010. Local authorities are joining in the effort with aims to increase energy independence through promoting energy savings (i.e. groups such as the Covenant of Mayors) or to increase inter-linkages between energy production, distribution and use (initiative of the Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership).
The 2014 ‚Äď 2020 Cohesion policy also contributes to increasing energy independence. In the 2007-2013 period, the ERDF supported about 30,000 renewable energy projects, over 80% of which in less developed regions. The 6th Cohesion Report emphasises the potential of biomass as a renewable energy source, and specifies that 52% of waste was converted into energy in 2010, compared to 44% in 2004. Notable projects of biomass conversion were funded through ERDF financial instruments in 2007 ‚Äď 2013, and the scope of financial instruments for energy projects is further enlarged over the next 7 years.
The overall message of the map is that Europe is an energy importer from Russia and the Maghreb countries. The North Sea oil and gas fields, along with resources along Norway‚Äôs shores compensate for this external energy dependency, but the increasing oil and gas pipeline projects in the Balkans highlight Europe‚Äôs long-term reliance on external energy providers. At the same time, these projects show a desire to diversify producers to include the Caucasus, after a long time reliance on Russia.
In terms of natural gas, a dense distribution network is observed in Central and Eastern Europe and in the North Sea, in particular in Norway, indicating the resource‚Äôs origins. The largest gas pipes (caliber 36‚ÄĚ) are only in Russia, where most of the major gas fields are located, along with a few in Eastern Europe, the Maghreb countries and numerous along Norway‚Äôs shores. It is noticeable that Maghreb countries increase their sale of natural gas in liquefied (LNG) form, evidenced by the many LNG facilities in these countries. On the other hand, this LNG network is complemented by numerous LNG import terminals in Europe and particularly in the Mediterranean. Infrastructure links towards Northern Africa, however, are limited, consisting mostly in LNG terminals and few pipelines through Spain and Italy.
Oil is largely imported from the Maghreb countries and Russia, with few underwater fields in the North Sea. Diversification efforts through pipeline projects in the Balkans seek to transport oil from the Caucasus region. Crude oil pipelines are a feature of neighbouring countries, whereas a high density of networks producing oil products can be found especially in metropolitan areas, indicating that oil processing takes mainly place in Europe.
Electricity, as oil and as nuclear plants, has a high-density distribution network in metropolitan areas and less so in rural areas. The only very high voltage lines are in Russia, indicating its large supply capability for European importers. As for solar power, the European network is underdeveloped given the technology‚Äôs young age. Most of Europe‚Äôs thermosolar installations are in Southern Spain, whereas most photovoltaic plants are in Eastern Germany.
Concepts and methods
The map depicts oil, gas, solar, nuclear and high voltage electricity networks in Europe in 2010. The background colours represent the amount of horizontal solar radiation expressed in Kilowatt per m2 per day.¬† Distribution lines (pipelines, transmission lines for electricity) are expressed in different colours depending on the type of product, and in a full pattern if the line exists or dashed pattern if it is under construction or in project stage. Circles represent the origins of energy: oil fields (black), gas fields (orange), liquefied natural gas or LNG (green or light blue), solar installations (dark blue or red), whereas nuclear plants are identified by triangles. Finally, the larger the objects (distribution lines and circles), the more important that energy infrastructure is: the more volume distribution lines can accommodate and the more resources are found in a given production spot.