I represented the UK at the Energy Council in Brussels on 31 May.
The first item on the agenda was a report by the presidency on the progress of negotiations with the European Parliament on the proposal for a regulation on security of gas supply. The presidency noted the likelihood of a first reading deal with the European Parliament by the end of June and there was a short discussion.
The Commission then reported on their dialogue with member states on targets under the Europe 2020 growth strategy, in particular achieving the objective of moving towards an increase of 20% in energy efficiency across the EU. The Commission stressed that, if the EU was to meet the target, then a clear definition of the task and who does what would be necessary. In discussion, a number of member states raised questions about the methodology of calculating targets and the importance of national targets taking account of national circumstances. The Commission will now launch a study on how best to set targets to secure improvements in energy efficiency and will look to member states to provide information on their national energy efficiency targets/programmes in due course. The presidency will report on discussions of the target to the General Affairs Council in preparation for the June European Council.
The main debate at this Council focused on the EU’s future energy policy, with most member states intervening. During the discussions, I noted the importance of implementing existing legislation, creating the markets and networks necessary for a low-carbon future, supporting and developing new technologies, making progress on energy efficiency and diversifying supply routes and sources. In his intervention, Commissioner Oettinger focused on implementation of the internal market package and the questions confronting the development of energy infrastructure in the EU, as well as the need to maintain a focus on research into new energy technologies despite the economic climate. He confirmed that the Commission would publish an “Energy Strategy for Europe 2011-2020” in time for the December Energy Council. The Commission would also produce a roadmap to 2050 and a package of measures to promote infrastructure development. In addition, there would be a focus on energy policy at the European Council early in 2011. Belgium indicated that as the next presidency it would take forward work on the strategy and Ministers agreed high-level Council conclusions setting out high-level principles for the new energy strategy.
Finally, the Commission and presidency gave presentations on a number of international items, on amending the regulation on the European energy programme for recovery to use non-allocated funds, and on the Commission response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.