Governments mainly disappointed

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Reaction by member states to the commission's latest stalling procedure on the renewables directive is varied. Some government ministers are disappointed that there was no concrete proposal on the table for them to consider. Others are relieved that a perceived threat to their national renewables support system has been removed.

UK energy minister Helen Liddell is concerned at the failure of the directive to materialise. She and a majority of her colleagues share the opinion that the commission should be asked to produce its proposal as soon as possible. This is also the opinion of Danish energy and environment minister Svend Auken, absent at the meeting due to his attendance at a World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle. Auken, who was represented at the council meeting by his department head, Leo Larsen, also expresses satisfaction with the commission's thinking, as presented by energy commissioner Loyola de Palacio (previous story). This now harmonises "one hundred percent" with Danish policy, says Larsen.

The Danish government, however, wishes the directive to be more forthright in its aims to harmonise support mechanisms for renewables throughout the EU. Such harmonisation will allow single market trade of renewables electricity. Auken also insists that national support systems be allowed to continue until the introduction of pan-European energy and C02 taxes to reflect the entire costs of electricity generation.

The Dutch, too, are "disappointed" at the lack of progress on formulating a directive, says the economy ministry's Mariolien Wester. In order to prevent the situation recurring at the next round of discussions, economy minister Annemarie Jorritsma will be providing the commission with an early written reply to the options presented at the December 2 meeting. Of these, the Dutch are particularly keen to see the inclusion of green certification of electricity from renewables in any final draft. They also believe that member states should set their own targets for renewables' share of national energy supplies, instead of a quota being dictated by the commission.

No threat to Germany

German reaction to the council meeting's unexpected outcome is mixed. "We were partly pleased and partly sorry about what happened. The draft was a big step forward compared with previous proposals and would have brought progress for renewables across Europe," says Volker Oschmann, assistant to Hans-Josef Fell, energy spokesman for the Green party, which has followed the issue closely. Oschmann reports satisfaction, however, with the commission's decision to drop plans to require countries to open the borders of their renewable energy support systems once renewables were supplying 5% of national electricity consumption.

"The best development would be a directive which lets the various support systems develop in parallel so that we can take another look in a few years time to see which works best," he says. Fell adds that the latest draft discussed by the Commission represents "significant progress" on the internal papers that have been circulated over the last year or so.

He points out that Brussels does not represent a threat to Germany's proposed new renewable energy law (page 17). In fact, the directive proposed, but not presented, creates a certain degree of legal security for the law.

Changes advised

Fell says the Commission must now concentrate on three objectives: fixed ambitious targets for the expansion of renewables; removing the time related limits on subsidies and instead linking them to the achievement of growth targets; and reviewing application of the directive with respect to the progress individual member countries have made on developing renewables.

The Spanish government delegation, led by Jose Manuel Serra Peris, has reportedly expressed relief that the directive was dropped. In mid December, Spanish energy ministry failed to comment on the meeting's outcome, leaving the impression that they did not understand the likely consequences of the directive for Spain's renewables market.

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