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The Cordovan woman who carries the handle of European energy policy

The unprecedented levels reached by energy prices in Europe have drawn extreme attention from governments and the European Union, alarmed by the impact on inflation and economic recovery. The situation has triggered frenzied activity within the European Commission to assess future prospects and the design of the wholesale electricity market, put into question by several member countries, including Spain, as well as to stop the escalation with the measures

In the midst of this tidal wave with such political transcendence is, as Director of Energy Policy in the Directorate General of Energy of the EU, Cristina Lobillo , a woman from Córdoba who had been behind the scenes of the European Commission since 2004, holding different positions (she was Chief of Staff of the Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete , where she became familiar with politics energy, and previously worked in the General Directorates of Agriculture and Commerce). Since June 2020 he has held this position, in which he is in charge of coordinating energy policy, which involves relations with the Member States, Parliament and the Council; the evolution of energy markets; international relations and legal unity.

Under normal conditions, Lobillo would have done his job without so much notoriety, but the increase in prices has put him in the front line of fire. He has had to deal with issues such as market volatility, supply problems, supply insecurity, the certification of the Russian gas pipeline, the closure of the gas pipeline between Algeria and Morocco … A lot of obstacles that have been overwhelmed in a very short time and are part of a discourse that is the reality of a sector that is going through one of the most severe crises due to the price of gas and international geopolitical tensions.

It has had to deal with those responsible for energy in all the countries of the union, including the team of Teresa Ribera , third vice president and minister for the Ecological Transition, who together with France, Romania, Greece and the Czech Republic have presented a paper to reform some articles on the pricing system. In front, another 11 are opposed, including Germany, although now it is necessary to see if there are changes with the new government. Lobillo, in the middle of the fight, has to tune bagpipes and find the best solution. “The greatness of the European project is that from Brussels we can help to find a solution, to mark the path of continuous work of the 27 member states and the energy transition is the way to set the decarbonisation objectives”, he maintains.

In effect, his command passes through consensus. For now, the diagnosis of the reasons that have led to the current increase in energy prices: the increase in demand, the increase in the price of gas in global markets and that of CO2. Everything comes together in a context of dependence on the EU, which imports 90% of the gas it consumes. Of the total, 40% corresponds to Russia, which has also reduced the flow of its gas pipelines to Europe.

The solution that the EC manages to make joint purchases, establish a mandatory storage of raw materials and intensify cooperation between countries with solidarity agreements. At the same time, promote the incorporation of renewable energy, in line with the EU forecasts. “To the extent that this source of energy and other fossil fuels is less and to the extent that we can increase the percentage of renewable energy that we produce and consume, we will be in a situation of less price volatility”, has Lobillo stated in his speeches. That is, the more renewables, the less dependency.

Know in depth all the sides of the coin.

In this sense, awaits the report that he commissioned last October 13 from the EU Agency for the Cooperation of the Energy Regulator (ACER) to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of the current wholesale electricity market and whose final delivery must be presented in April 2022. In the preliminary advance, of November, some factors appear that explain determinants such as that countries with high dependence on gas are more exposed to high prices and there is no evidence of market manipulation. It also notes how the shift to spot gas pricing in Europe (rather than long-term contracts) has generated significant benefits over the last decade.

Lobillo has become commonplace in markets. forums and debates organized in Spain. However, between the pandemic and lack of time, he has had to attend most of the invitations remotely. The activity that she has achieved in the subject that she is in charge of hardly allows her to develop her hobbies: reading, traveling for pleasure (she is passionate about the Asian world) and playing golf and doing gymnastics. Nor can he escape to his native Córdoba to be with his family as he would like or to Madrid to see his friends.

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