Europe economic woes may impact its energy security policy…

Many European countries are suffering from negative economic conjuncture and high unemployment and, therefore, may begin to change the approach towards energy security in the near future, HE Chairman of the Administrative Control and Transparency Authority Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah has said.

Addressing the Brussels Forum during a workshop entitled “Energy Transition and the Role of Europe,” al-Attiyah said European governments may review strategies to shorten the gap of competitiveness with the US, develop solutions and options to decrease the dependency on natural gas from Russia, and consider indigenous shale gas option.

Guided by the vision of HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Qatar’s long-term national development strategy, Qatar has made sizeable investments in a broad range of industries in Europe. “Qatar will continue along this path supporting European economies by supplying LNG and developing commercial relationships. Despite the current economic slowdown in the continent, we believe in the future of Europe,” al-Attiyah said.

He pointed to the “truly remarkable” developments in the unconventional gas resources in the US, which “may revolutionise the energy landscape in North America over the next decade.”

He said, “Development of shale resources is largely attributed to the technological breakthroughs in hydraulic fracturing technologies that are unlocking light tight oil and shale gas resources. The shale gas revolution in the US has led to removing the anticipated need to import LNG, while driving down domestic natural gas prices. Increased gas production and cheaper shale extraction methods have caused prices to reach historic lows. As a result, the US is now in a position to be self-sufficient in natural gas by the end of the current decade. Moreover, interest in exporting gas over the past years led to significant increase in the number of planned gas liquefaction projects and export terminals. The US is expected to become a net exporter by 2016-18.”

Al-Attiyah added, “Just how much LNG export capacity will be built and how much gas is eventually exported is subject to several political, commercial, technological factors, including whether regulatory approvals for new export terminals are granted, and whether the regional price differentials are maintained in favourite of the US Henry Hub price.”

He said the change of the US role in the gas market will have a significant impact on European economies and their energy strategy, especially on the three aspects of security of supply, relative fuel costs (gas vs coal), and economic competiveness.

“Due to the increase in energy demand in the last decade in the Europe,” al-Attiyah said, the security of supply is viewed there as a “diversification of the energy supply sources. That is, securing fuels from more suppliers, countries and areas to minimise the risks of operational or political disruption and price shocks that follow. In the last decade, the EU (European Union) has based its security of supply strategy on the shift towards a low carbon economy. In addition, recently the Fukushima accident has pushed many EU countries to reconsider or abandon nuclear power option (such as Germany).”

He added, “Then, security of supply and carbon mitigation represent the main reasons for the development of renewable energy sources, especially wind and solar, and of low-carbon traditional generation solutions (such as natural gas)”. This decision has led the EU to change its energy mix, increasing the share of natural gas and renewable energy sources, he said.

“The low-carbon policy being implemented in Europe, combined with the scarcity of local fossil fuel resources or the difficulties in exploiting them, supports the case for governments to subsidise the development of renewables and energy efficiency.

Al-Attiyah noted that the combined impact of energy supply, the imported natural gas, and the annual expenditure to finance the incentives to renewables shall have an important impact on the EU’s competitiveness and on Europe as area of investments.

Members of the official delegation accompanying al-Attiyah attended the workshop. The three-day forum kicked off on Friday in Belgium.

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