EU ministers request renewables framework

Papoutsis says political steer means delayed draft directive should now be published

The acting EU commissioner in charge of energy, Christos Papoutsis, has said that he will try to publish a delayed draft directive on renewable energy sources within the coming weeks - or by September at the latest.

A draft, setting binding targets for the proportion of a country's energy to come from renewable sources, was prepared by the Commission's energy directorate (DGXVII), but was held back due to a combination of Germany's misgivings about a directive and the Commission's resignation crisis (ENDS Daily 9 February). However, EU energy ministers, meeting in Brussels yesterday, gave Mr Papoutsis' attempt to propose legislation a political push by formally asking the Commission to submit a "concrete proposal" for an EU framework on promoting electricity from renewable sources.

Following the ministerial meeting, Mr Papoutsis said the Commission should be able to adopt a proposal "before the end of the term of this Commission." According to the most recent timetable, this would mean by 19 September when the current caretaker administration is due to step down.

Mr Papoutsis' spokesman told ENDS Daily that the current draft would be re-worked to take into account the comments made by ministers yesterday. It is unclear whether the proposal that eventually emerges will still contain binding targets, although this is something personally favoured by the commissioner. Ministers gave no clear message on whether or not they would back such targets.

They did, however, list some of the elements they would like to see included in the proposed framework. In common with environmental NGOs, ministers said the directive should explicitly permit national governments to choose which measures they feel are best to promote renewables in their country. The NGOs fear that a drive to ensure "fair" competition in the newly liberalised EU energy market might mean price support systems like Germanys' "feed-in" regime would be banned (ENDS Daily 28 April).

The ministers stressed, however, that there should be common principles governing measures to promote renewables in order to avoid market distortions, and that market-based instruments would be the best solution to ensure that renewables become competitive with other forms of energy in the long term.

Ministers also looked at a recent Commission communication on limiting electricity wasted by consumer electronic products in "stand-by" mode - thought to account for 10% of household electricity consumption in the EU (ENDS Daily 7 April). They agreed with the Commission's view that voluntary agreements with industry were the best means of achieving progress. They concluded that binding legislation such as minimum efficiency performance standards should only be used in cases where other measures such as "labelling, quality marks, incentives, tax rebates or procurement" were found to be inappropriate.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: + 32 2 285 6111.

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