The EU still needs to make “major efforts” to modernise its energy structure and fully develop its renewable energy resources, European heads of state and government agreed during a meeting in Brussels last week. They called on the European Commission to explain by June how it plans to finance these efforts.
Billed as the first ever EU energy summit, many green lobby groups were disappointed at the lack of concrete goals resulting from the meeting. Leaders admitted that the EU is not on track to meet its 20% energy efficiency goal by 2020 and acknowledged that further measures are needed, but did not call for a binding target as many NGOs would have liked.
Brook Riley, climate justice and energy campaigner with Friends of the Earth Europe said: “A binding target … would contribute to solving the climate crisis, reduce household bills by up to €1000 every year, and create millions of green jobs”.
However, leaders were adamant that energy will remain a top priority for the EU. They agreed that the common energy market should be completed by 2014, meaning that in three years “power and gas should be transported as easily throughout Europe as goods and services,” according to EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger. EU leaders also insisted that it is vital to upgrade Europe's energy grid infrastructure, with all EU member states connected to the European grid by 2015 – Cyprus, Malta and the Baltic states remain unconnected.
Heads of state and government agreed that most of the infrastructure financing “will have to be delivered by the market, with costs recovered through tariffs” – the latter should be set “at levels consistent with financing needs and to the appropriate cost allocation for cross-border investments, enhancing competition and competitiveness”. They noted that certain projects “unable to attract enough market-based finance” could receive public funds to leverage private funding for security of supply or solidarity reasons.
Support for feed-in tariffs
The leaders also reiterated their support for national support schemes such as feed-in tariffs for renewable energy, and said they want the EU to promote investment in renewables and “safe and sustainable low-carbon technologies”. They asked the Commission to come forward by June with “figures on the investments likely to be needed, on suggestions on how to respond to financing requirements and on how to address possible obstacles to infrastructure investment”.
ENTSO-E, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, said that regulators should have the ability to develop “innovative solutions” to fund projects “where standard criteria cannot be applied”. The organisation stated that “the reward for such investment needs to recognise the increased risk” and insisted that “a stable and attractive regulatory regime to attract equity and bond investors is vital.”
In a communication on renewables published at the end of January, the Commission called for EU member states to double their annual capital investments in renewable energy from €35 billion to €70 billion to ensure the 2020 targets are met, and said that this should mainly come from the private sector. In 2007-09, only around €9.8 billion of EU funds – mostly in the form of loans from the European Investment Bank – were spent on renewables.
By. Philippa Jones
Source: Environmental Finance