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EC launched its High level group on energy, competitiveness and environment…

31.01.2007

EU emissions trading, and an analysis of its impact on electricity prices ; the competitiveness of European energy-intensive industries; functioning of the energy markets are among the first issues that will be tackled by a new high-level stakeholder advisory group on competitiveness, energy and environment, the group decided at its first meeting in Brussels on Tuesday 28 of February...

Launched by Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen on October 5 th 2005 (see Brussels Briefing 05/10), this initiative represents ”a key element in the Commission’s efforts to develop an integrated approach to industrial policy”. The High-Level Group, which has a two-year mandate, includes four Commissioners (industry, energy, competition and the environment), four Economy or Industry Ministers (Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom and Finland), and 18 non political members, twelve business leaders representing the energy industry and energy-intensive industries, and six members representing other interests (NGOs, trade unions, consumers and regulators). The group comprises as well four seats for the MEPs, yet to be nominated.

The Group approved at the group’s inaugural meeting on 28 February in Brussels the working methods and on the subsequent subjects to be prepared for the next meeting planned June 2 nd :

The functioning of the energy markets in order to assess its short and long term impact on the competitiveness of industry, on the environment and on incentives for investment. The EU emissions trading scheme in order to give input to the review of the scheme, notably by investigating the impact on electricity prices, the issue of a level playing field for industry and methods of allocation.
The competitiveness of European energy intensive industries, and in particular how access to energy inputs affect their competitiveness.
Finally the energy efficiency in order to assess its impacts on competitiveness, analyse market barriers, and investigate financing mechanisms and means to increase awareness. Four ad hoc working groups have been set up to prepare the work of the high level group:

One working group “greenhouse gas emissions trading” will look at the EU scheme's impact on electricity prices and possible future permit allocation methods ahead of a legislative review by the European Commission due later in the year.

A second will assess the impacts of energy efficiency on competitiveness, analyses market barriers and investigate financing mechanisms to increase efficiency.

The third will look at the functioning of EU energy markets and their impact on firms.

The fourth will examine the competitiveness of energy intensive industries.

Before its launch on February 28 th, the composition of the group was under severe criticisms from both the Environmental groups of the G10 and the green members of the European Parliament (MEP’s). According to the G10 which has two seats in this group, (http://www.eeb.org/press/20060228-Environmental-NGOs-statement.pdf), the composition is imbalance and does not reflect the ambitions the Commission had announced. Green MEP’s have also voiced their concerns about the imbalance nature of the high level group, in particular by the absence of representation of the renewables sector. Green MEP’s got support from the other groups' presidents as the parliament's Conference of Presidents refused to nominate the four MEP’s for the high-level group. In addition, c ontrary to initial suggestions, the group does not include a representative from academia.

EWEA welcomes this initiative from the Commission to bridge the gap between competition, environment, industrial and energy policies. However, it is unacceptable that the Commission has flat out denied any representation from the renewables sector in the Commission’s ‘High Level Group on Competitiveness, Energy and Environment, despite numerous requests from the renewable sectors. In February, EREC (of which EWEA is a founding member) and EUFORES, a group of European parliamentarians, have called on the Commission to include two representatives from the renewables sector into the group. The European Commission rejected the proposal to have a representative in the high level group and invited instead the renewables sector to be part of the working groups.

“The important role that renewables can play in Europe’s energy future is stressed by recently published Green Paper. We are astonished that the renewable industries have no representation in the High Level Group. All appeals from us and the European Parliament to include representatives from renewables in the High Level Group have been rejected by the Commission,” says EWEA President, Arthouros Zervos.

An integrated approach for industrial policy covering environment, competition and energy dimension is needed as too often protection of the environment and economic growth are seen as incompatible goals. Denmark is a prime example that this is not the case. The country gets more than 20% of its electricity from wind energy alone, and is constantly appearing in the top-10 over the most competitive economies in the world.

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