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EU paves way for final showdown on energy 'governance' bill


European Union legislators made progress Wednesday (23 May) on a draft EU law that sets a “trajectory” for the deployment of renewable energies in Europe and puts in place a “gap-filler” mechanism to ensure the bloc meets its 2030 energy and climate objectives.

Negotiators from the European Commission, Parliament and Council met in Brussels yesterday in a bid to move forward on the proposed Energy Union governance regulation, ahead of a potentially final ‘trialogue’ on 19 June.

The governance bill is the cornerstone of a broader ‘clean energy’ package of laws tabled by the European Commission in December 2016. It sets an overarching framework for achieving the EU’s energy and climate policy goals until 2030, including a strict timeline and a review mechanism to ensure the bloc meets objectives on renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions.

At yesterday’s talks, negotiators made progress on energy poverty, the internal market and energy security, which are seen as the less controversial issues in the governance bill. A key demand from EU countries was to ensure EU initiatives “contain no obligation for member states to define ‘energy poverty’ at national level,” according to a Council document circulated ahead of yesterday’s talks.

First discussion on “gap-filler” mechanism

But most of the attention was elsewhere.

For the first time, EU negotiators exchanged views on the proposed “gap-filler” mechanism, which aims to bring back countries into line when they fall short of meeting the EU’s assigned CO2 and renewable energy objectives for 2030.

Talks on the “gap-filler” mechanism were only at “exploratory” stage, with a final conclusion expected at the June talks, said a source close to the Parliament negotiating team. Yesterday’s discussions aimed primarily at defining the “trajectory” and the “corrective measures” that EU countries will be required to take to meet the bloc’s 2030 objective on renewable energies, the source said.

Claude Turmes, a Green MEP from Luxembourg who leads the Parliament delegation, explained earlier that the governance regulation needs to address three potential “gaps” in the bloc’s 2030 climate and renewable energy objectives.

  • The “ambition gap” – between the EU’s objectives and commitments made under the Paris Agreement;
  • The “delivery gap” – where EU countries drag their feet or renege on commitments made by previous governments; and
  • The “trajectory gap” – when governments delay action until the 2030 deadline draws nearer.

In the absence of nationally binding targets for renewables, Germany, France, Portugal and Sweden have convinced other EU countries to include intermediary targets in order to make sure the bloc meets its 2030 objectives.

The Parliament consecutively voted in January to include three milestones on the way to meeting the EU’s 2030 renewables target – in 2022, 2025 and 2027.

But while Parliament backed a nearly “linear” trajectory for renewables up to 2030, EU governments want a “banana-shaped” curve where objectives are gradually ramped up as the 2030 deadline gets closer, Turmes told MEPs last week.

Besides, it is still unclear what will be the EU’s renewable energy objective for 2030. Parliament has backed a 35% share for renewable energies, up from the 27% decided by EU leaders in 2014, an objective many regard as outdated considering the rapid decline in costs for wind and solar power. This is being discussed as part of negotiations on the Renewable Energy Directive.

19 June “all-nighter”

In comments sent to EURACTIV yesterday after the talks had wrapped up, Turmes said much of the heavy-lifting work remained for the 19 June “trialogue”.

“This meeting was an important milestone to take stock of progress on many issues,” Turmes said. “Differences between the Council and the Parliament are fewer and fewer but there are still some outstanding elements to clarify if we want to wrap up during the next trilogue, the objective of achieving a ‘net-zero carbon economy’ by 2050 being one of the most important ones.”

People familiar with the negotiations said the Commission, Parliament and Council only kicked off political negotiations at yesterday’s talks. “This means they have bundled issues together to facilitate a deal that strikes a balance between the institutions’ mandates,” the source explained, listing the three most controversial issues that remain to be discussed at political level:

  • The national and EU long-term strategies for which the Council needs an updated mandate to match the objectives of the Paris Agreement;
  • The governance of the energy efficiency target whose fate is still “very uncertain” and depends on separate discussions on the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Efficiency First principle (which is still viewed with scepticism by some member states in the Council);
  • The governance of the renewable energy target for which there seems to be “a positive momentum” in the Council (the item was supposed to be discussed yesterday but negotiators ran out of time before they were able to discuss it).

“With today’s trialogues, the political negotiations have really started between the three institutions,” said Quentin Genard from E3G, an energy and climate change think tank.

“The ball is now in member states’s court to give the Presidency enough political leeway to work on a deal. In particular, in-depth discussions are needed on long-term strategies, energy efficiency and Efficiency First to meet the Parliament halfway,” Genard said.

The 19 June trialogue will start at 19:00 pm, in “open-ended” format. It will be an “all-nighter”, Genard said.

Parliament backs ‘net-zero’ carbon emissions by 2050

Green lawmakers have hailed a “great victory for the climate” as a proposal to bring down to zero the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted in the atmosphere by 2050 received unexpected backing from the European Parliament yesterday (17 January).

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