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Post-EU Energy Council

Volume 520: debated on Monday 13 December 2010

Andy Lebrecht, Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, represented the UK at the Energy Council in Brussels on 3 December.

Ministers at the Energy Council adopted Council conclusions on a consumer energy policy and on the Commission’s recent communication on the safety of offshore oil and gas activities. Commissioner Oettinger commented on the conclusions that he wanted to raise EU standards on offshore oil and gas activities to those of the best.

The main focus of the Energy Council was a debate on the recently published Commission documents, the “Energy 2020” strategy and the communication on energy infrastructure priorities. Commissioner Oettinger presented the two communications and outlined the Commission’s priorities, including ensuring energy savings, speeding up authorisation procedures for infrastructure; and stressing the need for the EU to speak as one when dealing with its primary supply markets in the middle East, the Caspian and Russia.

Ministers broadly agreed with the Commission’s documents. There was a strong consensus on the need for progress on energy efficiency although a number of member states argued against the idea of national binding targets. Member states agreed with the Commission on the crucial need for large investments in energy infrastructure but while broadly accepting the need to explore how planning and authorisation procedures, particularly for cross-border projects, could be improved, some, including the UK, noted that these were matters for member states. The UK and several other member states emphasised the importance of implementing the Third Package of internal energy market rules to facilitate the development of infrastructure. There were conflicting views on the financing of new infrastructure with some member states supporting the Commission’s ideas of co-financing while others objected to the idea of EU funding. The UK and a number of other member states raised concerns over the idea of harmonising renewable support schemes. On external relations, most member states took a cautious approach to the Commission’s proposals for a greater role for the EU.

The UK noted the opportunity of the European Council in February (where energy is planned to be a major item) to set a vision for a low-carbon, energy-secure, competitive EU by 2050 and the direction of EU energy and related policies to secure the necessary transformation, highlighting energy efficiency, technology, infrastructure and external policy as the key issues for Heads to discuss. In summing up, the presidency noted a level of consensus on the broad priorities in the Commission documents and the key issues for the February Council.

Commissioner Oettinger then updated the Council on a number of international energy relations events—the EU-US Energy Council, the EU-Russia energy dialogue and Belarus-Russia developments on gas.

In the morning of the Council, the UK and representatives from Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, Luxembourg, Denmark and Norway signed a memorandum of understanding on the North sea’s offshore grid initiative, which sets out a programme of work to facilitate the development of offshore wind resources in the region.