It also maintained its backing for member states to continue with technology-specific auctions, subject to State Aid rules, and supported the European Commission’s (EC’s) proposed 27% target for renewable energy by 2030.
Further, the council set three indicative benchmarks towards the 2030 goal, with member states being required to fulfil 24% of this obligation by 2023, 40% by 2024, and 60% by 2025.
Priority dispatch to the grid for existing renewables projects has been retained, but will be phased-out for projects still to come online.
These agreements will serve as the basis for negotiations regarding the EU’s final Clean Energy Package with the European Parliament in 2018.
The council had met to agree its negotiating positions ahead of talks with Parliament, likely to start in January.
WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson welcomed the council’s endorsement of the EC’s proposals on providing visibility for renewables in tenders, and the need to remove barriers to corporate PPAs.
But he was "deeply disappointed" by the council’s failure to support a renewable energy target of at least 35% by 2030. Industry organisations including WindEurope and SolarPower Europe, as well as blue chip companies such as Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, had co-signed a letter to the EU’s energy ministers calling for the 35% target.
He was also concerned that existing renewables may be exposed to balancing responsibility before having proper access to balancing markets.
"We're encouraged by some of the progress the Council has made on a number of issues in the Clean Energy Package," Dickson said.
"But crucially the Council's failure so far to move anywhere towards the Parliament's support for a 35% renewables target by 2030 is deeply disappointing from an economic perspective.
"The costs of non-ambition on renewables - the difference between a 27% and 35% target - is €92 billion investments not made and 132,000 jobs not created plus the whole idea of Europe being number one in renewables.
"And it's not just the wind industry that will lose out. Every €1,000 invested in wind creates €250 of value for the wider industrial supply chain including chemicals, steel, construction and electronics."
.@EUCouncilPress minimalistic deal on governance #EnergyUnion. Good that pro #renewables FR DE SE DK LU LT managed to push @eu2017ee to a third reference point for trajectories. Language on #climate is weak. Up to @Europarl_EN to get ready! #CleanEnergyEU https://t.co/XQsVYXV75i— Claude Turmes (@ClaudeTurmes) 18 December 2017
Luxembourgian MEP and Greens spokesperson for energy policy Claude Turmes a described yesterday’s agreements as a "minimalistic deal".
Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU climate commissioner, called it "insuffiucient".
"The level of ambition is clearly insufficient. The reduction of costs in renewables has been spectacular, whether it is in solar energy or wind power."— Miguel Arias Cañete (@MAC_europa) 19 December 2017
Kadri Simson, the Estonian minister of economic affairs and infrastructure was more optimistic.
"The debate in the council has shown the determination of all member states to create a resilient energy union," he said.
"Today’s agreement is its cornerstone, providing robust rules, an effective framework for implementation and is future-proof."
The general approach, agreed on 18 December, enables the Energy Council to start negotiations with the European Parliament on the Clean Energy Package.
It will be put to a vote during the Parliament’s January 2018 plenary session.