I represented the United Kingdom at the EU Informal Energy Council in Brussels on 6 to 7 September 2010.
The Council began with a discussion of energy consumer policy, focusing on the issue of vulnerable consumers. There was broad agreement on the need for greater transparency of information and on the importance of technology, including the use of smart meters, to allow consumers to make better choices. This discussion will form the basis of a report benchmarking national policies for discussion at the December Energy Council.
The Council continued with a debate on energy infrastructure, including the development of a low-carbon grid. Member states referred to issues of planning and the length of time needed to get certain permissions as particular obstacles to infrastructure development. The debate moved on to financing, with widespread agreement that the majority of the energy infrastructure investment which would be needed across Europe in coming years would need to come from the private sector but that there was a role for the EU in facilitating that investment and providing finance in exceptional circumstances. I noted the importance of regional projects, such as the North sea offshore grid. The Commission confirmed that it intended to produce a communication on infrastructure in November, focusing on barriers to investment and key priorities for the next two decades.
The Energy Commissioner then presented the Commission’s initial position on the EU’s response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. He emphasised the importance of minimising the risks of a similar incident in the EU by ensuring the highest standards of safety across Europe. He noted that the EU already had a framework of safety regulations in place and great experience of drilling, particularly in the North sea.
The Council ended with a working lunch where Ministers discussed energy efficiency.