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News in Brief, BB200803

Member State proposals “would undermine directive”

17.03.2008

A number of key issues have emerged during continuing discussions about the European Commission’s draft Renewable Energy Directive, which is aimed at ensuring achievement of the target for 20% renewable energy in Europe by 2020.

Discussions have been taking place at regular meetings of the European Council’s Energy Working Party as well as at the Energy Council on 28 February. The most important debates have been around the issues of grid access, variations to the 2020 targets and trading in Guarantees of Origin (GOs).

Grid access

A few member states have raised concerns relating to priority grid access and distribution (article 14(2)). Although they generally expressed support for allowing renewables priority access, there were some dissenting voices. Sweden argued that it would be strange to give priority to renewable electricity since it already has over half its power supplied by renewables. Finland pointed out that it has no central dispatching system and therefore would not be able to provide the priority envisaged. The UK, Luxembourg and Austria all opposed the clause, arguing that in order to ensure security of supply and competitiveness, there should be no priority access.

EWEA is currently consulting with its national association members and grid experts to suggest ways forward so as to avoid a weakening of the proposal.

Undermining of targets

A number of proposals may combine together to undermine the 2020 targets. EWEA sees no reason to weaken the text in any of the following areas.

The ‘Severn Barrage Clause’ (article 5(2))
This clause says that renewable energy plants with very long lead times can be considered towards a country’s target for production taking place after 2020, providing the plant has an installed capacity of over 5,000 MW. The UK government, which has been promoting a tidal barrage across the Severn estuary, wants the threshold reduced to 500 MW.

Third Country Imports (article 5(9))
The UK and Italy, with some support from the Netherlands, have proposed a weakening of this article, which sets very strict requirements for renewable electricity produced in third party countries. They argue that these installations need not be ‘new’. This means that plants which were operational before the entry into force of the Directive would count towards national targets.

Council legal advisers have pointed out that imports from EEA countries (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) will not be relevant for this article, as they would be required to implement the Directive.

Interim trajectory
Poland has questioned whether an interim trajectory is necessary at all; other countries have proposed making it less rigid.

Guarantees of origin
So far, much of the debate has been about the proposed GO trading system - the trading of certificates representing green energy. A number of governments have raised concerns about the legal robustness of the Commission’s proposal, as it enables member states to set up a ‘prior authorisation’ system (article 9(2)). This allows them to control GO imports and exports in order to ensure secure energy supplies, achieve environmental aims and meet their national targets.

At the Spring Council in March, member state leaders highlighted “the need for flexibility in achieving national… renewable targets [and] the importance of effective national support schemes for renewable energies and an effective flexibility mechanism based on guarantees of origin as suggested by the Commission…”

EWEA, together with the European Renewable Energy Council, is currently developing a series of amendments on the GO trading provisions which it hopes will be taken forward in both the Council and the European Parliament. The Association has also made an official request to the European Commission for publication of their legal opinion relating to the ability of member states to impose limits on the transfer of GOs (article 9(2)).

The European Parliament has yet to begin debating the Commission proposal. It was presented to the Parliament’s ITRE (Industry, Research and Energy) Committee on 8 April, and the rapporteur, Green MEP Claude Turmes, has started to prepare his report. The upcoming French Presidency, which covers the second half of 2008, is scheduled to prepare a progress report ahead of a debate by Energy Ministers on 6 June.

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