EK blog: How does transport relate to the Energy Union?

The main attention of the Energy Union has been so far on the external dimension of the EU’s energy policy as well as on domestic power production. Now, however, the role of transport is clearly strengthening, writes Tellervo Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala, member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

Tellervo Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala is a member of the Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and Information Society (TEN) at EESC.
Tellervo Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala is a member of the Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and Information Society (TEN) at EESC.

Transport is closely linked with the core objectives of the Energy Union: decreasing the dependency on imported energy, mitigating climate change and improving the competitiveness of the EU.

The European Commission is currently preparing a Communication on decarbonisation of transport, with special emphasis on road transport. Improved energy efficiency, increased use of low-carbon energy sources, as well as smart transport management are all necessary means of responding to the challenge of climate change. And luckily the same methods help decrease the dependency of imported energy, too.

Variety of measures needed

When assessing the feasibility and potential of various measures, it is necessary to observe certain differences. Passenger and freight transport should be considered separately because somewhat different mechanisms and measures apply to them. The same goes for different transport modes.
As to freight transport, maximizing the efficiency of logistics is a built-in approach of business operations. For passengers, different public transport modes and sharing practices are ever more interesting, often based on digitalization. Here, Finland is in the forefront of introducing the concept of Mobility as a Service.

At the same time, a future of low-carbon private cars can also be foreseen. The hype-like interest in Tesla’s new electric car gives some perception on the consumers’ interests. In addition, new kinds of bio-based traffic fuels are being developed to replace fossil fuels even in trucks, which are not able to use electric power without radical innovation in energy storage. Irrespective of the mode of transport, the improvement of energy efficiency is a viable option, with countless opportunities for innovative solutions.

Competitiveness is the clue

All in all, it seems that the development of new technologies is so fast and the consumer preferences so unpredictable that political decision-makers should not try to pick the winners – nor losers – but create a favorable environment for innovation and let markets to decide. Intensive research and development, open markets and fair competition are especially important from the point of view of the third objective of the Energy Union, namely the improved competitiveness. In addition to well-functioning internal markets, a level playing field with global competitors is crucial here, too.

Finally, I want to share with you one more take-away point: Despite the fact that transport is an essential part of the Energy Union, it must not be considered as a matter of energy and climate only. Transport is much more: it is one of the basic enablers of the activities of business, consumers and the whole society. Transport related energy and climate policies should thus not be developed in isolation from “ordinary” transport policy, the basic aim of which is to ensure smooth and safe mobility of people and freight at a reasonable cost – while minimizing harmful impacts on climate and the environment.

Tellervo Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala, Chief Po­licy Ad­vi­ser at Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), tel. +358 9 4202 2540, firstname.lastname@ek.fi