EU Energy Ministers met in Brussels on 26 November 2015 for a Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council (TTE) devoted to energy issues. The meeting, chaired by Étienne Schneider, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Economy, resulted in the adoption of conclusions on Energy Union governance and a general approach to the proposal for a regulation establishing a framework for energy efficiency labelling. Ministers also held an orientation debate on a new energy market design.
Energy Union governance
The Council adopted conclusions on Energy Union governance, which will provide the Commission with policy and technical guidance for setting up the Energy Union in the months and years ahead.
During the press conference which followed the Council, Etienne Schneider welcomed the adoption of conclusions on a governance system for the Energy Union and described it as "a step of crucial importance", since they establish the terms of operationalisation that will enable the European Union and Member States to gear up to a "truly integrated and political Energy Union".
The Energy Union with a forward-looking climate change policy is a priority of the Juncker Commission launched in February 2015 and has five main dimensions:
- energy security, solidarity and trust;
- internal energy market;
- moderation of energy demand through energy efficiency;
- decarbonisation of the economy;
- research, innovation and competitiveness.
The implementation of all five dimensions, requires a reliable and transparent governance system without creating any unnecessary administrative burdens for Member States, reported the Council.
The governance system will monitor the EU's collective progress towards meeting its energy and climate targets and its general policy objectives across the five dimensions, and thus provide for a consistent and transparent overview of the state of the Energy Union.
In its conclusions, the Council identified as essential components of the governance system:
- a National Energy and Climate Plan to be adopted by each Member State, covering the period from 2021 to 2030;
- progress reports on the implementation of the National Plan, both based on standardised templates;
- constructive dialogues between the Commission and the Member States;
- monitoring and evaluation based, inter alia, on key indicators.
Within this context, Ministers also took note of the Commission's first annual report on the state of the Energy Union, adopted by the Commission on 18 November 2015, and presented by the Vice-President of the Commission and Commissioner for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič. The report sets out an analysis of the energy situation at EU and national level.
Energy efficiency labelling
The Council reached a general approach on the proposal for a Regulation setting a framework for energy efficiency labelling. That regulation repeals the Energy Labelling Directive 2010/30/EU introduced in 1995, which enables customers to make informed choices with regard to energy efficiency and consumption of products.
The Commissioner for Climate Action & Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, welcomed the adoption of a general approach to the proposal for a Regulation setting a framework for energy labelling which, he believes, will encourage manufacturers to invest in green energy. He also pointed out that although, traditionally, Europe has been the leader in this field, China was the leading investor in 2014 with a record USD 83 billion, which constitutes a 39 % increase compared with 2013, whereas the level of investment in Europe was USD 55 billion.
The Council observed that energy labelling will help to moderate energy demand and to meet the Union's 2020 and 2030 energy efficiency targets. In its conclusions, the European Council of October 2014 set an indicative target increase of at least 27 % for energy efficiency to be met throughout the Union by 2030.
The proposal retains the main principles of the current legislative framework, but further clarifies, strengthens and extends its scope. It allows for the periodic rescaling of labels in order to encourage the creation of ever more efficient products and avoid excessive use of higher efficiency classes. The proposed regulation also contains clearer rules on promotional campaigns, advertisements and incentives, and aims to improve enforcement mechanisms and transparency towards customers and the public by creating a database of products covered by energy labelling requirements.
The proposal on energy efficiency labelling forms part of the European Commission's Energy Union "summer package", which also launched the public consultation process on a new energy market design. It also included a communication on a new deal for energy consumers.
New Energy market design
The Council had an orientation debate concerning two Commission communications, on the basis of a Presidency background document:
- launching the public consultation process on a new energy market design with a view to adapting the current electricity market design rules to meet the new challenges;
- delivering a new deal for energy consumers, which aims to place consumers at the centre of the future energy system, taking advantage of new technology to enable all consumers to fully participate in the energy transition, as well as managing their consumption in order to save them money and contribute to an overall reduction of energy consumption.
Both communications are a follow-up to the Commission's Framework Strategy to develop a resilient Energy Union, presented in February this year. Legislative proposals are expected during the second half of 2016.
In addition, Ministers addressed the role, responsibilities and powers that Distribution System Operators (DSO) will have in the future electricity system, in line with questions formulated by the Presidency.
COP21 was a focus of Council discussions
Commissioner Cañete welcomed the "timely" debate on the role of energy in global climate change discussions given that in less than five days, on 30 November, the Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21) will start.
"The Paris Climate Change Conference is a unique opportunity to advance the energy transition in Europe towards clean and locally produced energy", he stated, adding that it was an excellent chance to place European energy companies at the head of the new global low-carbon energy market and the global market for energy-efficient technologies.
The Commissioner welcomed the fact that 178 countries, accounting for 96 % of global CO2 emissions, submitted their intended nationally determined contributions (INDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
He observed that the INDCs demonstrate that countries are seizing an economic opportunity and called for them to consider it as a strategic investment in the growth of the low-carbon technology sector. He believes that the objectives put forward by India and China will triple renewable energy production worldwide. According to a report drafted by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the energy sector has to invest USD 13,500 billion in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies between 2015 and 2030 in order to attain the INDC levels required, stated the Commissioner.
In the margins of the Council, Ministers adopted new rules on export credits to coal-fired power plants, developed within an OECD framework. It is a significant step in light of the climate change negotiations due to begin in Paris on 30 November within the context of COP21.
Lastly, Ministers were updated by the Commission on recent and forthcoming developments concerning international energy relations, in particular Ukraine/Russia/EU trilateral talks on gas, the Energy Community, the Energy Charter Treaty, the International Energy Agency, the Strategic Group for international energy cooperation and EU-MED energy cooperation.