In advance of the forthcoming Energy Council in Brussels on 24 November, I am writing to outline the agenda items to be discussed.
The first substantive item on the agenda will be a report on the progress of negotiation of the draft directive on energy efficiency. Given the complexity of the directive, progress since negotiations began in July has been limited, although a welcome start has been made in addressing over-prescription and a lack of flexibility in the draft directive. The Government support measures to encourage greater energy efficiency across the EU and look forward to more work being done on this dossier under the Danish presidency, for whom it is a priority.
The Commission will then present its proposal for a regulation on the safety of offshore oil and gas activities, which is intended to reduce the chances of a disaster similar to the one in the gulf of Mexico from happening in European waters. The UK welcomes the fact that many of the requirements in the proposed regulation appear to mirror key elements of the UK’s existing offshore safety regime, although we have serious concerns over the practical effect of a regulation on the administration of our current regime.
There will be a presentation by the Commission of the proposal for a regulation on guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure and a first exchange of views on the draft regulation by Ministers, based on questions proposed by the presidency. The UK welcomes the publication of the draft regulation, its focus on cross- border infrastructure projects and its acknowledgement of the role that the tools in the third package of energy market legislation will play in incentivising investment in electricity, gas and other networks necessary for the move to a low-carbon energy economy, while preserving energy security. While we welcome efforts to improve permitting processes, flexibility is key. Member states have their own pre-application and consent procedures reflecting their own particular needs and circumstances so this will need to be considered when determining how “best practice” might be developed in this area.
The presidency will present a progress report on the main actions and initiatives taken in response to the conclusions agreed at the European Council and the Energy Council in February. The report covers five policy areas where deadlines or priorities have been set: energy efficiency, internal energy market, infrastructure, external energy relations and nuclear.
The agenda includes two items on the external dimension of EU energy policy. The presidency is aiming for adoption of Council conclusions on the Commission’s communication on European external energy policy. We are broadly content with the conclusions and with the amendments we have secured, which aim to ensure that the Commission respects the existing balance of EU/member state competence under the treaties— in particular, in relation to co-ordinated messages in international forums such as the IEA, IAEA and G20 etc. The Commission will then update the Council on a number of EU external energy relations issues.
A number of member state delegations will present information to the Council on issues of concern to them.
Over lunch Ministers will discuss the implications of individual member states’ choice of national energy policy for European energy objectives and receive a presentation on the International Energy Authority’s World Energy Outlook 2011 from the IEA’s executive director.