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Energy Post-Council Statement

Volume 626: debated on Monday 3 July 2017

The second Energy Council of the Maltese presidency took place in Luxembourg on 26 June. I represented the UK.

The Council began with the Commission (Vice President Šefčovič) presenting the recommendation for a mandate to commence negotiations with the Russian Federation on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. It reiterated its commitment to ensuring energy supply routes to the EU complied with the rules of the third energy package, including diversification and security of supply, which was supported by the member states that intervened. The presidency noted the legal and political concerns raised by the Council.

The Council then discussed the energy efficiency directive on which the main outstanding issues were whether the EU-level energy efficiency target should be binding or indicative, and whether early efforts generating long-term savings could be counted towards the 2030 energy-saving obligation. Some member states supported maximum ambition; others called for more flexibility so that ambitious targets could be met.

The presidency made further efforts to find a compromise that could command a sufficient majority but texts which might have been acceptable to the UK were blocked by a group of member states demanding a more ambitious target yet less flexibility for member states to be able to meet them. Ultimately a general approach was adopted that included a higher EU-level energy efficiency target of 30% and some limited flexibilities for member states to achieve their binding national energy savings target. Eight member states voted against the proposal, on the basis that it ran counter to the position of the European Council in 2014. Although the balance of the proposal would have been acceptable to the UK, we were unable to support the text because the Commission refused to confirm the joint understanding reached with the UK in 2013 on what could be counted towards our 2020 binding national energy savings target. This could materially impact on our ability to meet our 2020 target.

Next, the presidency presented its compromise proposal on the energy performance of buildings directive, emphasising the uptake of electric vehicle charging points as the centrepiece of the revisions, and the increased flexibility for member states compared to the Commission’s initial proposal. The Commission (Commissioner Cañete) highlighted what it saw as a loss of ambition. Member states supported the balance of the presidency’s proposal and the Council agreed on a general approach, although some member states, including the UK, noted the need for measures to be economically and technically feasible.

The Council then discussed energy interconnectors at the request of Spain and Portugal, who sought binding targets for interconnection and funding for the required infrastructure. The Commission reiterated its commitment to the 2015 Madrid declaration on developing interconnectors, and highlighted the future discussion of this issue at the high-level group in September.

Finally, the presidency noted the intention of working groups to move forward on the six remaining legislative files that comprise the clean energy package; the Commission updated Council on a number of external energy relations issues over the past six months, including discussions on energy co-operation with China, Japan, Africa and Iran, and the development of the Eastern Mediterranean as a gas supplier, in order further to improve diversification of supply, The Estonian delegation presented the priorities for its upcoming presidency, which focused on electricity market design but also included negotiations on other elements of the clean energy package and the mandate for Nord Stream 2.