In this Brussels Briefing on Energy, leading journalist Hughes Belin provides an overview of the European Union’s most pressing energy issues:
– State intervention in the energy sector
– Unbundling of the electricity and gas distribution
– European Commission’s list of energy infrastructure projects
– Energy Efficiency Directive
Although Commissioner Günther Oettinger’s proposal on state intervention in the energy sector is still outstanding, the Commissioner for Competition Joaquim Almunia has withdrawn his proposal on state aid for nuclear energy. Nuclear state subsidy plans will therefore be examined on a case-by-case basis. Although it seems hard to argue that nuclear is an immature technology needing subsidies, Almunia seems quite open on the issue.
The EU Court of Justice ruled recently that Netherlands’ activities to unbundle the distribution of electricity and gas are compatible with EU treaties. Hereby, the Dutch government aims to separate the network management from generation, supply and trading of energy. The court says that consumer protection takes precedence over the restrictions on free movement of capital and, therefore, no treaty violations were determined.
Recently, the European Commission issued a list of 250 energy infrastructure projects of common interest. For these projects 5.8 billion Euros were set aside to finance studies as well as work where projects are recognized as necessary but not commercially viable.
The Energy Efficiency Directive was enforced a year ago. Nevertheless, it seems already quite likely that the EU will miss its 20% target for 2020.