Tuesday, 9 December 2008

EU renewables boost for Scotland

The EP and Council are still in the midst of negotiating the EU's climate change deal and from what we are hearing and seeing the negotiations are proving to be ever more difficult with the financial crisis being seemingly used by many member states to 'backtrack' on commitments they made previously. The deal comprises a number of legislative proposals including the revised Emissions Trading Scheme, sharing effort in reducing greenhouse gases with developing countries and carbon capture but for the moment concerns remain over the issue of carbon leakage (i.e. where there is some concern that polluting industries could relocate to other countries that have less stringent emissions regulations), the redistribution of revenues of auctions, solidarity and funding of carbon capture and storage pilot projects.

However, the EP did manage to get a compromise on the renewables package, which contains a number of key points crucial for Scotland and our renewable industry:

Mandatory renewable energy targets: the 20% binding target for EU energy consumption to be produced by 2020 has been retained and there is to be interim targets fixed for each Member State but these will be non-binding. The EP did manage to strengthen the requirements around the National Renewable Energy Action Plans that each Member State has to submit to the Commission by 30 June 2010. Member States are obliged to submit an amended action plan if they miss the interim or 2020 targets. The Commission can also initiate infringement proceedings if a Member State fails to introduce "appropriate measures" to meet its interim targets or if its national action plan is judged to be inadequate. This is supposed to ensure Member States do actually deliver their targets on time. Measures for improving energy efficiency are to be included in the action plans. Progress reports are to be submitted to the Commission every two years detailing their shares of renewable energy, support schemes and progress on tackling administrative and grid barriers.

Flexibility and cooperation mechanisms whereby Member States work together under such mechanisms enabling them to help each other meet their national targets. Such cooperation could entail the statistical transfer of renewable energy between countries or taking part in joint renewables projects. National support schemes for renewables can also be joined up between various Member States to help achieve targets. The European Parliament managed to strengthen transparency requirements for "green electricity" with an online transparency platform for Member States to access and exchange information on the new renewables directive. EU countries can also meet their targets by importing electricity from non-EU countries under certain conditions, i.e. that the electricity must be consumed in the EU.

When it comes to the use of renewables in buildings Member States will have to introduce measures to increase the uptake of renewables in the building sector.

The Parliament was also successful in cutting the red tape and reducing the administrative burdens for investment in renewables and in ensuring legal guarantees for priority access of renewables to the electricity and gas grid with the importance of developing central district heating and cooling systems using renewables highlighted.
Not all of the deal is good - on biofuels the position retains the 10% target for renewable fuels in road transport by 2020. Although disappointed, it has at least been watered down and made more flexible. One third of the target will be made up through electric cars and trains, not biofuels, and the target will be reviewed in 2014. The Commission will bring forward proposals in 2010 to limit indirect land-use change, and biofuels from non-food sources will be promoted with a "double bonus" scheme.

On the whole I think this compromise is probably as good a compromise as we are going to get and we now await to see the outcome of the ongoing wrangling with the other climate change dossiers. With the mini session last week in Parliament, MEPs had the opportunity to hear from the EU Energy and Environment Commissioners and the French EU Presidency about the state of play with the rest of the negotiations. EU Energy ministers met yesterday in Brussels and the EP is supposed to vote on the whole package on 17 December, so we can only hope a deal is reached at the European Council in Brussels next week.

If the EU is to be taken as a serious global player in the UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen next December then it needs as strong and united a position as possible.

No comments: