2015 – A new year with new challenges

The year 2015 has started and with it, a new Commission and a new Council. In the Commission, under the new President Juncker, some serious restructuring has taken place, and everyone first had to get used to it. Not always easy to find back your old contacts…. In the Council, the Latvian Presidency has taken over some heavy dossiers from the Italian Presidency, such as the Clean Air Package, which the Commission was actually partly considering to take back, as the Member States’ opposition was that strong. Not to forget the European Parliament: Now the Commission has settled and asked for approval to withdraw the proposal on the National Emissions Ceiling Directive, the Parliament refused to approve and the procedure is deemed to continue. Thus, as this exemplary anecdote shows, a lot has changed but the back and forth between the European institutions keeps going on.

Now what can we expect from 2015? According to the Commission, the focus will be on the Energy Union – and a Strategic Framework is supposed to be presented those days. Under the heading “Energy Union”, apparently five issues are supposed to be covered: First, there is energy supply security – a topic that has gained certain momentum over the last months, not only due to the gas crisis in Ukraine, but also due to the Commission itself, recently suggesting what might be understood as cartel-like structures in their European Energy Security Communication. EREF has lately worked closely with the European Parliament on this latter dossier, trying in particular to strengthen the apparent link between securing energy supply by increasing renewable energy deployment. Other stakeholders have commented on the role of real competition, and free access to infrastructure in this regard. Generally, under their second point, the Commission wants to address the integration of national energy markets – thus recognizing that the internal energy market, as it was originally planned to be completed by 2014, is still far from reality and there are still several distortions to free trade and competition, also affecting the position of renewable energy and making it still depend on certain support. Third, energy demand shall be reduced, and fourth decarbonisation of the energy mix is aimed at. Here, we would like to see the Commission proposing a strong framework to reach the targets on which the Council agreed last year – i.e. the 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emission, the 27% re-newables and the 30% energy efficiency. This would be the chance for the Commission to set incentives for ambitious national commitments under the Governance structure, to develop meaningful indicators allowing some kind of monitoring and assessment of the progress and to establish some kinds of targets or benchmarks giving more certainty to the planning processes. Working with the Commission and the Member States on the development of such a framework, as this is so crucial to the renewable energy industry, will be highest priority for EREF in 2015, accordingly. The framework should give as much security to the industry as possible, and should allow for a firm and enforceable commitment by the Member States. While this is certainly not easy considering the opposition in some Member States, such opposition should not end up being an obstacle to the willingness of some other Member States to really make progress in the transition to renewable energy. Research and development, the fifth pillar under the Commissions Strategic Framework for the Energy Union, will certainly have to play its role as well, and there are huge potentials in several renewable energy technologies which we should tap in the years to come.
2015 is also going to be the year of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21, held in Paris this year. Based on the mandate given in the Council Conclusions from October 2014, the Commission will negotiate at the meeting, representing the European Union as such. For that, they are working on a Communication, to explain the Union vision and expectations, as well as the contributions the Union can and is willing to make. An important document, it appears, even more when considering that the European Commission is working on revising the Emission Trading System (ETS, that in the sectors not covered by the ETS, progress on green-house gas emission reductions is rather slow, ), the trouble one is facing e.g. with proposals on the Clean Air Package…
And then there are all the ongoing initiatives… such as the famous “Juncker Plan”, the “ILUC” debate which has now been carried on so long and just goes into another round, or the “Market Stability Reserve” supposed to rescue the ETS…
We look forward to it and we are positive that we can help make a change – through taking it step by step and transitioning to a 100% renewable energy future.
Dr. Dörte Fouquet, EREF Director