Energy ministers agreed to raise biofuels use to a minimum of 10% by 2020 but rejected an EU-wide binding target for renewables, leaving it to member states to decide on specific objectives at national level.
Ministers avoided painful decisions on energy-market liberalisation and renewable energies at a meeting in Brussels on 15 February, preferring to establish greenhouse- gas emissions reduction targets as a priority.
The Council said it “supports ambitious overall EU targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions for 2020” but that this should be done “taking into account national circumstances”. As a result, the ministers opted for:
- A target of 20% for renewable energies in the EU’s overall energy consumption by 2020, and;
- a 10% binding minimum target for the share of biofuels in overall EU transport petrol and diesel consumption by 2020.
The ministers also called for “rapid implementation” of the Commission’s energy-efficiency action plan, which, according to Commission calculations, could save Europe some 20% in energy consumption by 2020 and slash its energy bill by more than €100 billion every year.
On energy market liberalisation, the ministers followed France and Germany and “reaffirmed” that the first step should be “full implementation in letter and in spirit” of existing legislation before moving on with additional measures.
The conclusions come as a setback to the Commission and pro-liberalisation states led by the UK who had been pushing for full “ownership unbundling”, a move that would have seen large integrated energy groups split up their distribution and production activities.
The move was defended at the meeting by Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who repeated the Commission’s view that full unbundling was the clearest way to guarantee fair access to energy networks for new competitors.
However, the Commission’s proposal was strongly resisted by France and Germany, which were eager to protect former state monopolies such as EDF and E.ON.
Instead, the Council invited the Commission to ensure “effective separation of supply and production activities from network operations” and “guarantee equal and open access to transport infrastructures” to new energy suppliers.