EU renewables law gets ministerial approval

Energy ministers reach first reading agreement, weakening several provisions

EU energy ministers reached a first reading political agreement on the European Commission's draft directive on renewable energy on Tuesday, broadly along the lines we predicted on Monday (ENDS Daily 4 December). The law will now go to the European Parliament for a second reading.

As proposed by the Commission, the directive is intended to raise the share of EU energy supply generated renewably to 12% by 2010 and the renewable share of electricity to 22%. Ministers have backed proposals for a certification system for renewable electricity as well as several other measures designed to ensure that it can compete in liberalised markets.

However, governments are looking to soften the impact of the law in a number of areas, including - for three countries - the "indicative" national targets proposed by the Commission even though these would be non-binding. Ministers agreed to cut Portugal's target from 45.6% renewables to 39%, Finland's from 35% to 31.3% and the Netherlands' from 12% to 9%.

Several other countries wanted similar reductions, but have settled instead for alternative ways of limiting the eventual implications of the target. Austria, Sweden and Italy accepted the targets as proposed in exchange for a new clause exempting them from any obligation in the case of unusual weather conditions causing a cut in renewable energy output.

The system under which the Commission is due to monitor member states' progress towards their targets and propose tougher measures in case this is incompatible with the overall goals of the directive is also softened under the ministerial agreement. Governments will have five years rather than four to begin sending annual reports to the Commission. However, the Commission will make its own assessment of the situation four years after entry into force of the directive.

Ministers also underlined their determination to prevent any short-term introduction of EU rules harmonising national support mechanisms for renewables and possibly outlawing less trade-friendly approaches. Under the political agreement, the Commission will be able to propose a harmonised system as it proposed, but there would be a seven-year transition period before any such system could be introduced.

Follow Up:
Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111, and press release. See also reaction from the European Commission.

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