EU stimulus plan to include funds for energy savings

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After weeks of wrangling, EU lawmakers and member-state representatives have struck an agreement on a €5 billion European recovery plan, which will include substantial funding for energy projects considered vital to Europe's security of supply.

At their meeting yesterday (16 April), the Czech EU Presidency and the Parliament's negotiators endorsed the list of eligible projects agreed by EU heads of state and government in March (EurActiv 20/03/09). 

The plan, which initially reserved funds for flagship initiatives on offshore wind or the Nabucco gas pipeline, will now also be open to energy-efficiency measures, meeting one of the key demands from MEPs.

The plan's revised version allocates €3.98 billion to energy projects designed to stimulate job creation, help the EU out of recession and strengthen the bloc's energy independence.

It includes €2.35bn for gas and electricity interconnections, €0.565bn for offshore wind and €1.05bn for carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration plants.

The Parliament had threatened to derail the agreement as the plan agreed by EU leaders in March had omitted energy efficiency and smart cities from the deal (EurActiv 02/04/09).

MEPs in the Parliament's industry committee demanded that money not committed before 1 September should be redirected to finance energy-efficiency and renewable energy measures, while member states wanted to see any unused funds returned to their budgets.

The final compromise reflects MEPs' views, as it allows the Commission to propose the use of recovery money that is not committed by the end of 2010 for energy-efficiency and renewables projects. However, the EU executive will only be able to do this if it can show that there are "serious risks in implementing the priority projects". A progress report in March 2010 will determine whether such risks exist.

Separately, the Commission will also announce further measures to support energy efficiency and renewable energy, including the revision of the Energy Efficiency Action Plan by end of October 2009 and a public-private partnership on energy-efficient buildings before the Parliament votes on the compromise, the EU's co-legislator said.

The compromise will now have to be endorsed by ambassadors of EU governments next week, as well as the full Parliament on 4-7 May. 

A Czech EU Presidency source said member states could still rule out the channelling of unused funds into energy efficiency and instead request their return to their own coffers, Reuters reported.

Timeline: 
  • Next week: Committee of permanent representatives to decide on the compromise.
  • 4-7 May: First-reading vote in the Parliament. 
  • By end of October: Revision of the Energy Efficiency Action Plan. 
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