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Energy Council: February 2017

Volume 622: debated on Tuesday 7 March 2017

The Energy Council, chaired by the Maltese presidency, took place in Brussels on 27 February.

The Council began with a presentation by Vice-President Šefcovic on the Commission’s second state of the energy union report, emphasising that 2017 should be the “year of implementation”. He emphasised the importance of co-operation between Council, the Commission and the European Parliament, and the need to adopt the clean energy package swiftly. The Commission stated that the EU was largely on track to meet its 2020 energy and climate change targets, but that some member states were still reliant on third countries for their energy supply and there was a continuing need for diversification.

Commissioner Arias Cañete then gave a presentation on the clean energy package, comprising legislation covering energy efficiency, renewables, electricity market design and governance of the energy union. He saw this as a significant opportunity to prepare European energy markets for the future and highlighted the importance of consumer interests across the whole package.

Nearly all member states considered that the Commission’s timetable of agreeing the proposals by the end of 2017 was too ambitious and that it needed to be more realistic.

On the energy efficiency proposals, a number of member states explicitly expressed support for the Commission’s proposals for a 30% EU-level binding target. Others were more cautious, and were of the view that the legislation should be in line with the October 2014 Council conclusions and by inference propose a 27% indicative target.

On the renewable energy proposals, a number of member states stressed the role that bio-energy can play and wanted the associated proposals for sustainability criteria to apply to bio-energy. Others stressed the need for the proposals to take account of national specificities and that member states should determine their own energy mix.

Member states were generally supportive of proposals to improve the design of electricity markets as a key step towards a successful energy transition and a fully functioning market. However, a number of member states did raise concerns over the Commission’s proposals to phase out regulated tariffs, arguing that such tariffs should be allowed and that the package should not lead to liberalisation of price regulation, as this could result in higher prices for some consumers. Some member states also highlighted the Commission’s proposals to introduce “regional operation centres” considering it unacceptable to give these bodies extensive decision-making powers. A few member states stressed the importance of interconnection if the internal energy market is to operate effectively.

On the governance proposals, member state views were mixed. Some stressed the need for flexibility, others the need for ex-ante rules to address the question of what would happen if the EU were not on track to meet its targets.

The Council then received an update from the presidency on progress on negotiations on the energy efficiency labelling regulation and the gas security of supply regulation, in which the Council is now in discussion with the European Parliament.

The Czech delegation invited member states to attend the 12th meeting of the European nuclear energy forum taking place in Prague.

Finally, the Commission presented the ocean energy forum road map highlighting the important role that ocean energy could play in meeting the EU’s climate and energy objectives.

[HCWS521]