UK ‘needs EU’ to reap benefits of energy riches

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The UK needs the European Union to export its lucrative energy resources efficiently, according to Europe’s Energy Commissioner.

It must move beyond its debate about “EU budget cuts and lost sovereignty” and focus on the benefits of the union to the UK’s energy market, said Gunther Oettinger, the German politician who leads the energy portfolio at the EU’s governing body.

The UK, and Scotland in particular, has energy resources “few countries elsewhere can even dream of” but they cannot deal with modern energy challenges on their own, he said.

His comments came in a speech at a Scottish Energy Institute dinner in Aberdeen.

The warning over a focus on “lost sovereignty” comes amid growing support for Eurosceptic party Ukip, which came second in the Eastleigh by-election.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to hold an in/out EU referendum if the Conservatives win the next general election, while the Scottish Government hopes to start renegotiating its place in Europe as an independent country next year, although its prospective terms of membership are uncertain.

Mr Oettinger said: “The debate in the UK might revolve around EU budget cuts and lost sovereignty. But in energy, this is wrong. When it comes to investment in infrastructure, we need more money, not less. More European projects, not fewer. Everyone can win from the EU: consumers, industry and governments.”

Scotland could be on the verge of becoming “an energy powerhouse of Europe”, with half of its energy already generated by renewables, he said.

The North Sea Offshore Grid could link Scotland to a Europe-wide energy network stretching from Ireland to Poland.

“No single member state, no company and certainly no region can deal with today’s energy challenges on its own. But in the EU, we have the political means, the economic muscle and the technology networks. Europe can help the UK re-emerge on the European map as a reliable and powerful energy neighbour,” he said.