The presidency reported on recent progress in the negotiations of the proposal for a regulation on the safety of offshore oil and gas. The Council and the European Parliament both agreed that they would prefer a strong and appropriate directive rather than a directly applicable regulation. The Commission noted that it was the content of the proposal rather than the legal form that was important and that it would be prepared to move away from a regulation if a directive provided for the highest safety standards. The Irish Presidency will aim for rapid agreement of the dossier in 2013.
The Council agreed conclusions on the Commission’s recent communication on a strategy for renewable energy. The Commission noted that there was a need for a post-2020 target framework and to make it acceptable to all member states.
The Commission then presented its communication “Making the internal energy market work”, which had been produced in response to the European Council’s wish to see completion of the internal energy market by 2014. The Commission noted that lack of investment was an issue for all member states and that the Commission needed to address the issue of market design. There were problems in electricity security of supply as a result of the increased use of renewables; the EU needed to improve interconnections to make best use of the network and needed flexible backup capacity, which should be dealt with at the EU-level. The Commission plans to put forward a proposal in 2013 for binding guidelines for the application and implementation of aid to the energy sector; this will cover feed-in tariffs and capacity mechanisms.
In the debate that followed, a number of member states shared the Commission’s concerns about capacity markets. The UK and two other member states noted the importance of addressing serious electricity security of supply concerns resulting from the move to less predictable generation sources. The UK emphasised that it would work closely with the Commission to ensure that the internal market would not be compromised by any new capacity mechanisms.
On renewables, member states were divided in their support for post-2020 binding targets. The UK noted the need for a post-2020 framework but said that specific targets for renewables would not be welcome as they did not give member states sufficient flexibility to deliver emissions reductions as cost-effectively as possible. The Commission said that there was a need for discussion of 2030 targets suggesting that the May 2013 European Council would be a good opportunity.
Some member states raised concerns about the Commission’s intention to issue a proposal on nuclear liabilities given they regarded nuclear safety as being a more important issue. The Commission said that there was a need for a degree of obligatory insurance for nuclear liabilities. Proposals for a revision of the nuclear safety directive would come out in early 2013.
On other issues, the presidency noted the successful agreement with the European Parliament Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee of the regulation on guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure. The Commission and presidency also reported on a number of international energy related items and meetings, including the upcoming EU/US Energy Council, the Energy Community, the Energy Charter, EU-Russia and the southern corridor.
Finally, Ireland outlined priorities for its presidency, principally taking forward work on the internal energy market and the post-2020 framework.