Shifting politics offer fresh hope of EU deal on clean energy laws

In Spain, Teresa Ribera, the new energy and environment minister, said the newly-formed government will join the coalition of EU countries calling for bigger carbon cuts and higher ambition on clean energy. [Mark Bridge / Flickr]

The Bulgarian Presidency of the EU has tabled fresh options for the bloc’s energy ministers who are meeting on Monday (11 June) to finalise their position on three laws that will shape Europe’s energy and climate policy until 2030.

With new governments in Spain and Italy, the majority in favour of higher ambition on renewables and energy efficiency may have shifted decisively, environmental campaigners say.

For the first time, Bulgaria has put higher figures on the table, including an objective to boost the share of renewable energies to 33% of the bloc’s energy mix by 2030 and slash energy waste by another 33%.

This is higher than what EU ministers had tentatively agreed to during earlier meetings, and comes closer to the European Parliament’s request for a 35% objective applying to both renewables and energy efficiency.

A “matrix” document circulated by Sofia, and obtained by EURACTIV, shows options that EU energy ministers will be asked to choose from when they meet in Luxembourg on Monday (11 June) to finalise their position on three clean energy laws – the Renewable Energy Directive, the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Governance of the Energy Union Regulation.

The document was sent to EU member states with a request to indicate their preferences after Sweden, France, Portugal, the Netherlands and other countries pressed Bulgaria to raise the bloc’s level of ambition on renewables and energy efficiency.

EU outlines renewable energy policy options for 2030

European Union legislators have outlined a compromise deal on the bloc’s renewable energy policy for the coming decade, agreeing on a headline objective of 30-33% for 2030, sources said.

The Bulgarian proposal was hailed as “a huge step towards real climate action” by Roland Joebstl, an activist at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), who said there was “new momentum” ahead of Monday’s ministerial meeting.

Earlier this year, the European Commission did a modeling exercise, which estimated that a 33% target on renewables and efficiency would amount to an overall 46% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030, significantly more than the 40% objective agreed by EU leaders back in 2014.

“More is possible – up to around 50% – if you assume fast roll out of electric vehicles and national action to phase out of coal,” Joebstl said.

Shifting majority

The move by Sofia comes after new governments came to power in Spain and Italy, which appeared to shift the majority among the 28 member bloc.

In Spain, Teresa Ribera, the new energy and environment minister, said the government will join the coalition of EU countries calling for bigger carbon cuts and higher ambition on clean energy. “We intend to increase, to raise ambition on climate and the speed of the energy transition,” Ribera told Climate Home News. Spain was the only country opposed to going higher than 30% energy efficiency at a meeting of EU ambassadors on 8 May.

In Italy, the energy minister is from the 5-star movement, whose members in the European Parliament backed a 35% binding target for both renewables and energy efficiency, Joebstl said.

The latest sign came from the Netherlands, where the Parliament voted a resolution on Thursday (7 June) in favour of a 33% target for both renewables and energy efficiency. “The Netherlands was already clear on their higher greenhouse gas ambition and now also has a mandate by the Dutch parliament to go for 33/33,” Joebstl said.

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Bulgarian Presidency looks for “flexible” mandate

Bulgaria hopes to clinch a flexible mandate when the 28 EU energy ministers meet in Luxembourg on Monday.

“We must close the three files,” said Zhecho Stankov, deputy minister of energy from Bulgaria, which currently holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of Ministers.

Stankov was speaking at an event in Brussels on Tuesday (5 June).

“Monday, at the Energy Council meeting in Luxembourg, we are preparing some options for the member states trying to receive enough flexibility….to get a package deal,” Stankov said.

One of the big remaining question marks is the German stance. “Germany has not come out of the hiding on the renewable and energy efficiency targets,” Joebstl said.

“It is clear that the group around France has a massive blocking minority against any bad deals,” he explained. “But with Germany on board, they can get a very good deal,” he continued, saying Peter Altmaier, the federal minister for economic affairs and energy, is “under massive pressure not to spoil the leftovers of the good image of climate chancellor Merkel”.

>> The full “matrix” document is available below:


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