This discussion paper is based on a report ARGUS published in March 2014, after extensive stakeholder dialogue. The full report (in Dutch) is available for download on the ARGUS website (www.argusmilieu.be
). The original report focused on the Belgian context. This discussion paper turns to the European level. It posits that greater direction from the European level to guide Member States' energy policies is a precondition for a sustainable, cost-effective European energy system. With the report and this discussion paper, ARGUS seeks to inform future strategic decisions and actions. These documents are not a blueprint or modelling exercise nor do they paint a picture of the ideal future. Rather, ARGUS intends for them to serve as guideposts for possible common actions.
The most important motivation for rethinking the energy system is a shared concern about the consequences of climate change- energy generation is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Transitioning to a low carbon future is both necessary and possible, but will require massive investments. Experts agree, however, that the costs of inaction would be much higher. Furthermore, Europe is currently too dependent on the import of fossil fuels and vulnerable to their inherent price volatility. In 2012, the European Union (EU) imported 53% of its energy fuels -916 million tonnes of oil equivalent (MToe) of oil, natural gas and coal and 7 MToe of renewables. While this is slightly less than in 2011, the region's import dependence is projected to increase. The end result of this dependence is a billion euro drain to economies outside the EU, a number of which are unstable, undemocratic or otherwise unreliable regimes.
There are, however, also opportunities: The electricity infrastructure is ageing and needs to be upgraded, creating an opportunity to leverage existing investment plans; New renewable power and thermal technologies are increasingly a viable alternative to fossil fuel dependence; and A growing number of local initiatives and partnerships demonstrate support for a shift towards a sustainable energy system.