The Brief: Clean energy subsidies for all?

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


EU member states have a long, distinguished history of ignoring the European Commission when it comes to national energy subsidies.

The executive threw in the towel over subsidies to nuclear, gas and coal plants as part of a deal on state aid that rewards EU countries for keeping power plants idle as backup for intermittent renewable energy.

The decision is clearly pragmatic rather than principled.  Whether at Hinkley Point in the UK or the Paks nuclear plant in Hungary, the experience of the last ten years shows that EU countries will make their plans “irrespective of what Brussels says”, said Georg Zachmann, a seasoned Brussels observer.

So why waste the precious time of EU bureaucrats trying to implement state aid rules that are being ignored? Giving up the fight and relaxing state aid rules across the board may seem like a more tempting option.

The other side of the state aid deal, cooked up with the EU’s renewable energy champion, Germany, was to simultaneously relax competition rules for renewable energy generation – essentially wind and solar.

After all, the EU claims to be a leader in renewables so if it allows state aid for coal, it might as well allow it for renewable energies too, right?

At least that was the plan. But according to EU sources the deal on renewables has created disquiet in the European Commission.

Last week, a group of officials from its powerful competition and legal directorates issued a stark warning that the EU executive was preparing to sacrifice important EU competences in exchange for peace of mind on energy subsidies.

EU competition eggheads are set on getting their own way when the College of Commissioners discusses the winter package of energy laws next Wednesday.

This would be short-sighted, especially given the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Commission’s oft-vaunted ambition to make the EU the world number one in the sector.

If Brussels is effectively overruled on state aid to nuclear, coal and gas, it should also loosen its grip on subsidies to renewables.


Jean-Claude Juncker said Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was a “hero for many” after the leader died at age 90 on Friday. But Juncker made no reference to the thousands of people who died at Castro’s hands.

A spokesman doubled down on the remarks and dismissed Czech reporter Bohumil Vostal’s question as “narrow” when he asked about Castro’s support for the Soviet Union crushing the Prague uprising in 1968. Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström called it like it is. She sent out a refreshing tweet calling Castro a dictator.

François Fillon won last night’s primary vote with almost 70% of the vote and will now head into next year’s presidential election as the centre-right’s candidate. He has a steep fight ahead against National Front leader Marine Le Pen. But Jean-Claude Juncker is confident. He told Euronews that Le Pen won’t be the next French president. Is that the kiss of death for Fillon?

UKIP has a new leader. At least it did at time of going to press. MEP Paul Nuttall is UKIP’s fourth leader this year.

Andrew Parmley, the new Lord Mayor of the City of London insisted the financial hub will weather the storm of Brexit – even though some businesses have already decided to leave the UK since the June referendum.

Austrians will vote in a new president next week. They have two options; Alexander Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old former Green and Norbert Hofer, a 45-year-old candidate from the far-right FPÖ party.

Hofer insisted during a televised debate last night that he doesn’t want to take Austria out of the EU, but wants to push for a “positive development” in the bloc. The two already faced off against each other this spring, but Van der Bellen’s win was thrown out when it was revealed that absentee votes were counted too early.

Sylvie Goulard, the French ALDE MEP vying to be the next European Parliament president, talked to EURACTIV France about breaking the glass ceiling. Over the last 37 years, there have been 12 male presidents of the Parliament and only two women.

The European Commission will announce tougher energy efficiency targets on Wednesday, but will have to fight hard to get EU member states on board with the plans.

EU countries are divided over ride-hailing app Uber. The European Court of Justice is hearing a case that will decide whether Uber is a transport service or digital platform. France, Spain and Ireland insist the start-up must comply with transport service rules.


The second day of the Competitiveness Council. Today the Council agreed on a draft regulation to ban unjustified geo-blocking. Geo-blocking prevents customers buying products and services from a website in another member state. Tomorrow, the focus is on Europe’s space strategy, with a public session broadcast at 10AM.

World footballers union FIFPro will publish its Global Employment Report on employment conditions for soccer players tomorrow.

Views are entirely the author’s and not our sponsor’s. 

This Brief was powered by Statoil. Statoil is committed to accommodating the world’s energy needs in a responsible manner, applying technology and creating innovative business solutions. We are the second largest supplier of gas to Europe and have offshore wind projects with the capacity to power over 5 million households.


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