On September 23rd, 2015, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Paris office, in partnership with GMF Brussels and in association with the Institut Montaigne, organized a public conference on « Transatlantic Perspectives on Energy Security ». The event was structured around the presentations of U.S., French and German perspectives on the issue of energy security in the transatlantic region, followed by an open debate with the audience. The panel featured Ambassador Matthew Bryza, Eurasia Center Nonresident Senior Fellow at The Atlantic Council, and Former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Dr. Annegret Grobel, head of International Relations, at the Federal Network Agency for Electricity, Gas, Telecommunications, Posts and Railway in Bonn, and Vice-President of the Council of European Energy Regulators in Brussels, and Mr. Edouard Sauvage, Director of Strategy and Member of the Executive Committee at Engie (formerly GDF-Suez). The discussion was moderated by Kristine Berzina, Transatlantic Fellow “Energy & Society” at GMF.
The presentations of the panelists mainly focused on the abnormal nature of the transatlantic relations with Russia due to their energy dependency. Indeed, the European energy market – and more particularly the gas market – is largely framed by political objectives over commercial considerations, which increases the price of energy and creates unfair inequalities between European consumers. Geopolitics and commercial aspects are two sets of factors that have to go hand in hand, said Ambassador Matthew Bryza. The panelists highlighted the transatlantic efforts to agree on common regulations designed to limit the risks of a monopolistic situation in the energy sector and to promote a real competition. However, the implementation of the regulations is made difficult by the intense economic and political pressures of Gazprom and the Russian government to preserve their monopoly.
From Washington’s perspective, the energy transition of the last decade has dramatically improved U.S. energy security, but the dependency of its European and Asian allies vis-à-vis Russian resources is a matter of concern. The import of U.S. shale gas to the European market could be a solution to help diversify energy supplies and reduce the Russian control on energy prices. In parallel, Europe needs more governance and political will to implement a strategic vision of a united European energy market, including the Baltic States that are still partially disconnected. In this context, European states and the U.S. should work together to put in place strong networks and a reinforced cooperation to secure supply.
This process may take several years, but it is essential to guarantee the strategic independence of European powers, especially in the context of revisionist Russian policies in Eastern Europe. The “Energy Union Package” released by the European Commission in February 2015 is a first step towards this dynamic governance, but real progress still depends on the commitment of member-states. The panelists notably pointed out that all actors have to take into account the structural changes of the energy landscape.
The Panelists also discussed the growing share of renewable energy in the transatlantic energy mix. Reducing the dependency toward fossil fuel can be beneficial both economically and strategically, but from the private sector perspective, imposing quotas of renewable energy may also destabilize the energy market as a whole and create inequalities among transatlantic consumers. The priority should be put on high investments on technology and innovation for a more efficient and less polluting use of the existing energy resources.
The open debate with the audience also highlighted the geostrategic dimensions of energy security, as the panelists discussed the possibility to use TTIP negotiations as a vehicle for transatlantic energy cooperation, and the implications of the emergence of China as the world largest energy consumer on the transatlantic energy marker.
The event was attended by sixty French and European officials, scholars, journalists, representatives of international institutions and private organizations, and students.