Skip to main content

Energy Council

Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 21 May 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I represented the UK at the Energy Council, Brussels on 14 May 2003.The Council considered several matters of interest for the UK. Chief among these were the Cogeneration Directive, the follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the Commission's proposals and draft directives on EU level oil and gas stocks and security of supply.A compromise text for a Directive on Cogeneration (combined heat and power), which reflects UK objectives, was adopted after reserves (including the UK) were lifted. The European Commission described the important points as being the need to concentrate on high-quality schemes delivering good energy savings with safeguards against market distortions. Whilst Member States agreed to the text, some signalled a desire for a more ambitious measure at a later stage.The debate on the follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) centred on whether existing Community measures were sufficient to meet targets for greenhouse gas emissions, and on the long-term future of renewable energy. There was support for the outcome of the Johannesburg WSSD and recognition that the EU must take the lead in developing a sustainable energy policy. Most felt that the existing Community instruments would need assessing in about one year. On the future of renewables, the general view was that there needed to be a broadening of the technological base: wind technology alone was unlikely to deliver all the savings needed; effort was needed to develop biomass, solar and clean coal technology.The Commission thought that, whereas the EU appeared to be in the lead on energy efficiency, progress in the EU on renewables had been good, but could be better; and stressed the need for realism towards developing countries in respect of their capacity to switch to non-fossil fuels along with the need for developed countries to provide technological help to discourage growth in fossil fuel use.The UK said that the main need was for greater use of market-based mechanisms to incentivise investments in more novel forms of renewable energy such as wave and tidal power, biomass and solar. The UK underlined the need to encourage development of cleaner coal technology—particularly relevant to developing countries, with whom dialogue should be stepped up.On oil stocks, most Member States opposed the Commission's proposals to increase emergency oil stocking levels and give the Commission a greater role in co-ordinating a response to disruption of world oil supplies. They shared the UK view that oil is a global market, that any response to disruption needs to be coordinated on a global basis, and that only the International Energy Agency (IEA) can do this. Recent events had shown that the existing LEA arrangements worked well and there was no need to change them.On gas stocks, most opposed the Commission's proposals, giving the Commission wide new powers over the use of gas stocks in the event of potential supply disruptions. The UK saw merit in increased transparency and minimum security standards, provided they did not result in additional costs. But long-term contracts were a matter for companies—subject to EU competition rules. Some accession states (present for the first time at an Energy Council) endorsed the need for common measures on supply security, but expressed concern over the cost of larger stocks.Discussion on International Energy Relations focused on the EU/Russia dialogue and the energy forum scheduled for Amsterdam in May 2004. Delegates emphasised the need to prepare carefully for the EU/Russia Summit on 31 May in St. Petersburg, and the need to promote a consumer/producer dialogue and to encourage Russia to accede to the Kyoto protocol and Energy Charter Treaty.Following agreement on a Commission request for the inclusion of a reference to the negotiating mandate for a nuclear co-operation agreement with Russia currently in the Council Working Group, Council conclusions were adopted.Italy concluded by indicating that it would take forward the work of the Greek Presidency. Its priorities will be EU/Russia, Euro-Med and South East Europe/Balkans relations, particularly the need to develop further gas supply partnerships.