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Policy News, BB200609

Busy Autumn for Finnish Presidency

27.11.2006

Finland has taken over the Presidency of the European Union at a time when energy issues are at the very top of the agenda. The conclusions of the Green Paper on energy are due to be presented later this year, whilst grid connection issues, European energy security and long-term targets for renewables are all creating intense debate among member states.

According to Mauri Pekkarinen, the Finnish Minister of Trade and Industry, the Presidency will focus on four key topics: international energy relations, energy efficiency, internal energy markets and renewable energy (see interview with the Finnish Deputy Director for Energy in Wind Directions, May 2006).

International energy relations mainly concern reinforcing dialogue and co-operation with Russia, Europe’s main supplier of gas and oil, improving relations with other potential suppliers and ensuring that energy issues play a significant role in regional summits. The tools to achieve this objective include the creation of a permanent partnership council with Russia, which could meet by the end of this year for the first time; the inclusion of an energy chapter in the summits that are scheduled with China, India, Russia, Ukraine and the 6 th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM); and strengthening the recently-signed Energy Community Treaty between the EU and nine South Eastern European countries.

No reference is made to including renewable energy sources as part of energy diplomacy, or even generally spreading a more sustainable energy model to third countries. EWEA believes that renewables should be a central part of energy diplomacy efforts in order to reduce fossil fuel demand pressure, to effectively reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and to promote European technologies that are a source of wealth and employment for EU citizens.

The second priority, enhancing energy efficiency, relates particularly to the forthcoming Action Plan, to be presented soon, and to the conclusion of the EU-US Star agreement (1). The report of the debate on the “Green Paper on Energy Efficiency: doing more with less” already identifies some points of general agreement. These include the need to strengthen awareness and communication campaigns, to ensure effective implementation of the directives that are already in place and the search for more synergies among policies and measures. In EWEA’s view, actions to promote energy efficiency internationally are a fundamental pillar of any successful strategy – as recognised by both the consulted parties and by the Finnish Presidency - and should be part of energy diplomacy, hand-in-hand with renewable energy sources.

The third priority relates to completing the effective implementation of the electricity and gas markets. Here the Finnish Trade Minister is focusing on the links between the Emissions Trading Scheme and the functioning of the internal electricity market, without providing further details. The final outcome will depend, to a large extent, on the conclusions that emerge from the Green Paper “A European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy”, especially regarding the separation between network operation and production/supply, the creation of a single energy regulator and the implementation of concrete measures to improve transparency in the market.

Finally, the Finnish agenda on energy mentions renewable energy sources (RES), only to say that care should be taken that existing directives are effectively implemented before proposing new ones. The Presidency “will endeavor to ensure that the discussion on RES targets is conducted on a sound basis, so that decisions are made on information that is as comprehensive and as credible as possible”, it says.

EWEA encourages the Finnish Presidency to place more emphasis on backing renewables, especially given the fact that they are key to achieving the other goals – reducing energy dependency, curbing CO 2 emissions, increasing indigenous production, increasing technology exports.

On the statement that information should be as comprehensive and reliable as possible before a decision on RES targets is made, EWEA can only agree. Such information should cover, among other things, legislation that ensures real competition happening. It should also cover the externalities caused by the different energy sources, not only in terms of CO 2 emissions but the whole impact they can have on the health and security. By the same token, it should offer realistic figures on the support – either explicit or in the form of “hidden subsidies” - that different energy sources are receiving, and how this impacts on fair competition and innovation. Finally, information should involve an open debate with civil society on which forms of energy they would like to rely on in the future.

EWEA therefore calls for stronger support in terms of including renewables on the international diplomacy agenda, making a more explicit link between energy efficiency and renewable energy measures and pushing, for 2020 targets, as proposed by the European Parliament to be adopted early next year.

(1) EU ENERGY STAR is a joint initiative, developed between the US and the EU, to improve the energy efficiency of a wide variety of office equipment. For more information, please visit http://www.eu-energystar.org/en/index.html

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