Members of the European Parliament fear they will be swamped by a sudden flood of energy legislations this year, with some urging their colleagues to resist the temptation of “optimising” laws in endless negotiating rounds.
The European Commission is preparing a make-or-break “year of delivery” on its flagship Energy Union strategy, with a steady stream of bills proposals expected in 2016.
“We would like to present almost all the legislative proposals by the end of this year,” said Maroš Šefčovič, European Commission Vice-President responsible for the Energy Union, who was speaking in Parliament on Wednesday (24 February).
This will include three “packages” of proposals to limit greenhouse gas emissions from the transport, buildings and agriculture sectors, which are currently not covered by the EU’s cap-and-trade scheme for CO2.
New laws will also be tabled to ensure electricity markets and grid networks are “redesigned” to deal with an expected surge in intermittent power coming from renewable sources, Šefčovič said.
Šefčovič was speaking at an event organised by EurActiv in Parliament to mark the launch of the “EurActory40”, a ranking of the 40 leading experts in Energy Union policy. The Slovak commissioner currently ranks top of the list, followed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Circus classes in Luxembourg
But the expected deluge of proposals is making MEPs worried they will be unable to keep up with the pace.
“There is too much legislation on the table in too short a period of time,” said Claude Turmes, a veteran EU lawmaker from the Greens Party in Luxembourg.
“This will be a disaster, I think. Do you know anybody who can juggle with eleven balls? My friends who are taking circus classes in Luxembourg – they only have five,” he told the EurActiv event.
To ease the burden on lawmakers, Turmes suggested “merging” a proposal on biomass sustainability with the EU’s renewables directive. EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete was open to the suggestion, he said.
“When you try to do too many things at the same time, then you risk going backwards, not forwards,” Turmes warned.
Call for ‘horizontal approach’
The warning was echoed by Morten Helveg Petersen, a Danish MEP from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).
“I heard a few people complaining about the European Parliament not having enough to do” because of the Commission’s reluctance to table new legislative proposals, Petersen told the EurActiv event.
“For sure, those days are over and we’ll have plenty to do over the coming 18 months,” the Danish MEP said, citing new proposals on energy efficiency, renewables, and heating and cooling among areas of “tremendous importance”.
“In terms of governance this is perhaps the biggest challenge,” he added, warning: “We face a tsunami of legislation in 2016 and 2017.”
To deal with the expected surge in legislation, Petersen urged Parliament to adopt “a horizontal approach,” warning there was “an inherent risk that we will try to optimise within the different silos” of legislation.
One of the legislative packages will deal with energy savings, with a revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) expected in the autumn.
Adrian Joyce from the European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EuroAce), urged the Commission to “grasp the nettle and transform the directive” to bring about the entire building stock “to a nearly zero energy performance” by 2050.
“That is an achievable target,” he said urging the EU executive to show “the level of ambition that is required to bring benefits to all.”
Buildings currently account for about 40% of the EU’s total energy consumption.
Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission Vice-President responsible for the Energy Union, outlined legislative plans for the Energy Union in November, charting the course for a very busy 2016.