Elia Kreivi, EIB Chief Sustainable Finance Advisor, gives a keynote speech at the Charlemagne Prize Europe Forum on 25 May 2022, 10:15 a.m., Aachen. Find more information on the event.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for having me here at this year’s Charlemagne Prize Europe Forum to talk about energy security, which clearly is one of the most urgent challenges Europe faces today.

The conference comes at a moment of great uncertainty, human suffering and concern.

Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has plunged Europe into its biggest security emergency and refugee crisis since the Second World War.

All of us at the EIB are shocked by the unspeakable atrocities, death and destruction inflicted by Putin and his soldiers on the Ukrainian people.

In neighbouring Belarus too, those who risk their lives and liberty to defend democracy deserve our gratitude and our deep appreciation. That’s why I am so pleased that the Charlemagne Prize this year is recognising three exceptional woman who are leading the opposition in Belarus:  

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya who was the opposition candidate in the 2020 elections in Belarus, and Veronica Tsepkalo and Maria Kalesnikava, who supported her candidacy against dictator Aleksandr Lukachenko. Maria Kalesnikava’s sister Tatsiana Khomich will accept the award on behalf of Ms. Kalesnikava, as she is imprisoned in Belarus.

Here in Europe, the war has made the need to protect our sovereignty and autonomy more urgent than ever.

But the great opportunity amid the tragedy of war is that the bold investments needed to become independent from Russian fossil fuels will also help us solve the biggest long-term problem facing humanity: climate change.

First and foremost, this means constructing green energy infrastructure for solar and wind energy, power grids, storage facilities and LNG terminals that can later also be used for green hydrogen.

The entire European Union is facing this challenge. We should therefore act together. A united European Union has greater purchasing power with suppliers. All EU countries would also benefit from greater connectivity in their power grids, so that wind power, for example, can be imported during lulls in certain regions. We saw yet another advantage of connectivity just 10 days ago when Russia cut the electricity supply to Finland, which was able to cope with the shortfall thanks to imports from Estonia and Sweden.

Europeans should also invest massively in energy efficiency, combining subsidy programmes with loans from development banks.

But the scale of the investment required far exceeds what governments and public authorities can and should provide.

The private sector and capital markets need to play a key role, and the EIB can help here.  

Because we are the bank of the EU Member States, we can borrow from the financial markets at a lower cost than commercial banks. As a result, we can provide long-term financing on favourable terms.

Another strength of the EIB is that we not only employ bankers, but also engineers and biologists who can judge which projects and technologies are promising, including from an environmental perspective. When we finance a project, others usually dare to come on board.

A good example is the development of floating windfarms.

The idea is to put wind turbines on floating oil drilling platforms that can be anchored. The advantage of these floating wind farms is that they can supply wind power in any country, even those with steeply sloping coasts, and serve as base-load power plants. Conventional offshore wind turbines using earlier technology cannot be built in very deep water.

One of the first of these projects was a wind farm off the coast of Portugal. Two more were built off Scotland. France and Spain are now planning similar projects. The potential is enormous: it is estimated that once the technology can be used on an industrial scale, it can produce much more electricity than is consumed today worldwide.

In the capital markets too, we can see a lot of movement in the right direction.

When the EIB issued the first green bonds in 2007, we were pioneers. Some people thought we were mad at the time!

In 2021 alone, green bonds exceeded €600 billion of new issuance. Social bond issuance jumped to around €210 billion. And sustainability bonds, which address both environmental and social issues, reached around €190 billion of new issuance. This means the necessary investments can raise substantial financing in the capital markets.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Together, we Europeans can accomplish a great deal to become independent from Russian oil and gas and to slow down climate change. I’m looking forward to your comments and questions.

Thank you very much for your attention.