Energy efficiency talks face collapse
Agreement this year on the European Commission’s proposal for an energy efficiency directive is looking increasingly unlikely, with little chance of a compromise between member states and MEPs.
The two sides are holding talks today. The provisional mandate being used for negotiations, agreed by member states in April, seeks to add more ‘flexibility’ to the proposal by, among other things, reducing the amount of building renovation required of public authorities and easing energy-efficiency obligations. It would also introduce exemptions such as counting previous energy-saving action and counting savings by utilities rather than consumers.
The Commission and MEPs have indicated that this would be unacceptable because it would mean the EU missing its target of a 20% increase in energy efficiency by 2020.
Last week (20 May), the Danish presidency of the Council of Ministers circulated a compromise text that would allow member states to only use one or two of the exemptions for energy savings obligations, as long as it does not add up to more than 25% of their efficiency target. The text was given a cautious welcome by NGOs.
But Claude Turmes, the MEP leading negotiations for the Parliament, said the compromise text was still not acceptable. “The compromise text would only limit the exemptions for one article [energy savings obligations],” he said. “It does not compromise for the other articles, which are still weakened.”
Even if the compromise text were acceptable to MEPs, many member states – including Estonia, Finland, Portugal and Spain – are refusing to back it, according to a Council official. Germany has said it would abstain, while the UK’s position is unclear.
The Danish presidency is concerned that if MEPs do not show more flexibility, negotiations could fall apart and not be revived until next year. “To reach a compromise, flexibility is needed at both sides of the table – also from the Parliament side,” said a presidency spokesperson. “For growth and employment reasons – as well as energy security and development reasons – the European Council has called for agreement in June.”
It is expected that if talks fail then the issue will not be taken up again until the Irish presidency next year. Some MEPs have privately suggested that waiting would put more pressure on member states. But others have warned that losing a whole year will mean the eventual agreement will have to be stronger in order to meet the 2020 deadline, and it is unlikely that member states will be in the mood to move further next year.
Member states are scheduled to next discuss the issue on 4 June. If MEPs do not back down during today’s trilogue talks, it is unlikely there will any movement on the issue at the 4 June meeting.