Energy/Swedish EU Presidency
Swedes face legislative hurdles and gas crisis
By Dafydd ab Iago | Thursday 02 July 2009
Sweden faces a challenge in pushing through legislation on energy efficiency during the second half of this year. In November 2008, the European Commission issued a series of technical proposals relating to energy efficiency in its second ‘Strategic energy review’. These proposals aim to contribute to the goal of saving 20% of EU energy consumption by 2020. But unlike the binding targets set in the new Renewables Directive, such as achieving an overall 20% share of renewables in total energy consumption or 10% of renewable fuels by 2020, the goal for energy efficiency is not binding. A second major theme of the Presidency will be dealing with security of gas supply, whether in terms of overcoming an ever more likely crisis with Ukraine-Russia or in guiding first discussions on a new directive for the security of gas supply.
To date, the European Parliament has already voted on three of the proposals in the energy efficiency package, notably the directive on energy labelling (extending the scope from energy-using to energy-related products); a directive on tyre labelling with respect to fuel efficiency; and a directive on the energy performance of buildings. For the Energy Council, on 7 December, the Swedes are aiming for political agreement on the three proposals. They will also initiate debate on the Commission’s forthcoming communication on energy policy for Europe – action plan 2010-2014. This document aims to further develop EU energy policy.
Member states widely support the extension of the scope of the Framework Directive on energy labelling from certain types of household appliances to ‘energy-related’ products. Nonetheless, some delegations have expressed doubts on the inclusion of construction products. Others are “reticent” on implementing measures leading to minimum performance levels applicable to public procurement and to incentive systems. There is also a need for synergy with other relevant EU legislation, notably the Ecodesign Directive. Some delegations support the Parliament’s first-reading position that calls for the proposed labels to remain “simple” and “effective” (ie a simple closed-end ‘A-G’ scale rather than adding percentage figures to ‘A-grade’ labels).
NORDIC WINTER TYRES
As for the draft directive on the labelling of tyres, a progress note presented to the Energy Council in June points to “broad” support with some delegations calling for the directive to be adopted and implemented as soon as possible. Nordic countries, however, will push for a new type of tyre to be added so as to take account of their specific winter conditions. There are also divergent views and concerns as to the exact way in which end-consumers would be informed of the qualities of the tyres. The Commission is now to present an amended proposal in the form of a regulation, so as to enable direct application in all member states and speed up implementation. The change appears to bring the proposal more into line with the views of several delegations and the European Parliament.
Some countries are worried at the additional administrative burden associated with the draft directive on the energy performance of buildings and there are concerns over subsidiarity, cost-efficiency and adaptability to national circumstances. Several also refer to “overly ambitious and unrealistic” amendments proposed by the Parliament. The proposed change would reduce the existing threshold of 1,000 m2 - below which the current directive does not apply - to 250 m2. Owners, however, should not be discouraged from carrying out renovations as a result of stricter rules, notes the Presidency. Delegations have also drawn attention to differences in existing national policies to promote energy efficiency in buildings, and to different opinions on the functioning in practice of the directive currently in force.
SECURITY OF SUPPLY
The Swedes will have to deal with the possibility of a further gas crisis and whether or not to help Ukraine pay for the transit. Ukraine accounts for some 80% of the EU’s gas imports from Russia. On 7 July, Kiev will once again have to pay for gas received over the previous month (as it will on the 7th of each following month). Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has called for European banks to lend some US$4.2 billion so that the country can refill gas storage needed to serve the European market later in the year. Russia has apparently rejected Ukrainian demands for a similar loan that would allow it to pay for the necessary gas volumes so as to refill storage to around 32 billion cubic metres. At the beginning of the Presidency, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt did not know about the possibility of any extra money. “It’s a bilateral issue,” said Bildt. He also stated the obvious: “It’s not winter now.” However, the EU’s position will no doubt change as the cold weather sets in.
The Swedes will start the difficult debate on the forthcoming directive on the security of gas supply, scheduled for adoption by the Commission, on 14 July (see Europolitics 3775). The discussions on gas will follow some of the concerns expressed by energy ministers when reaching political agreement, at the Energy Council on 12 June, on a revised directive on oil stocks. Here, member states jealously guarded their own sovereignty against greater powers for the Commission, notably over release of oil stocks. Despite the threat of another gas crisis, it is likely that the Swedes will be faced with the same concerns over sovereignty when starting discussion of the revised directive on security of gas supply.
23-24 July: Informal Energy Council, Åre, Sweden. Held back-to-back with the informal environment ministers’ meeting, EU energy ministers’ gathering aims to coordinate policy agendas on climate change, energy efficiency, innovation and competitiveness.
7 December: Energy Council, Brussels. For the December Energy Council, the Swedes are aiming for political agreement on three proposals in the Commission’s November 2008 energy efficiency package, notably the directive on energy labelling (extending the scope from energy-using to energy-related products); a directive on tyre labelling and fuel efficiency; and a directive on the energy performance of buildings.