European energy markets face a number of problems: the growing threats of climate change, slow progress in energy efficiency and the use of renewables, the need for transparency, further integration and interconnection of national energy markets and the need for large investments in energy infrastructure. Moreover, Europe has to deal with major challenges in energy supply: the ongoing difficult situation on the oil and gas markets, the increasing import dependency and limited diversification achieved so far, high and volatile energy prices, growing global energy demand, security risks affecting producing and transit countries as well as transport routes.
The "Intelligent Energy - Europe" programme, which is part of the competitiveness and innovation framework programme (CIP, 2007-2013) [Decision 1639/2006, see section 17.1.3] contributes to achieving the general objectives of improving energy diversification and security of supply, and enhancing the competitiveness of companies in the Union, in particular SMEs, while protecting the environment and meeting international commitments in this area. It finances promotion programmes at European level aiming at creating the conditions for moving towards sustainable energy systems, at supporting the standardisation of equipment which produces or consumes renewable energy sources, at increasing technology deployment and at spreading best practices in demand side management. This programme continues three actions established by Decision 1230/2003 aiming at: (i) promoting energy efficiency and the rational use of energy resources (SAVE) [see section 19.3.1]; (ii) promoting new and renewable energy sources (ALTENER) [see section 19.3.5]; and (iii) promoting energy efficiency and the use of new and renewable energy sources in transport (STEER) [see section 20.1].
In a 2006 Green Paper the Commission defines a European energy policy, which should aim at three major objectives: sustainable development, competitiveness and security of supply [COM/2006/105]. The Green Paper was followed by a Commission communication, which states that the point of departure for a European energy policy is threefold: combating climate change, promoting jobs and growth, and limiting the EU's external vulnerability to gas and oil imports [COM/2007/1]. The mainstay of the new energy policy, approved by the Brussels European Council (8-9 March 2007), is a core energy objective for Europe: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its energy consumption by 20% by 2020. To achieve this objective, the Commission proposed to focus on a number of energy-related measures: improving energy efficiency; raising the share of renewable energy in the energy mix, as well as new measures to ensure that the benefits of the internal energy market reach everyone; reinforcing solidarity among Member States, with a more long-term vision for energy technologies development, a renewed focus on nuclear safety and security, and determined efforts for a common external energy policy enabling the EU to speak with one voice with its international partners, including energy producers, transit and high energy-consumers and developing countries.
A consultative committee, known as the "European Energy and Transport Forum", is made up of qualified individuals competent to consider matters relating to energy and transport as well as the interaction between these two policies [Decision 2001/546]. It includes representatives of operators, manufacturers and managers of networks and infrastructures, transport users and energy consumers, trade unions, environmental protection and safety associations and the academic world. It acts as monitoring centre for energy and transport policy, particularly on competitiveness and structural adjustments in these sectors, while having due regard for environmental, social and safety concerns.