Britain is looking for ways to scrap its 2020 clean energy targets while maintaining everyday trade in Europe’s energy market, an early sign of the kind of cherry-picking that threatens to sour Brexit negotiations.
Officials in the Treasury and the business department are looking for a way to abandon the national goal of getting 15 percent renewable energy by 2020, which is almost double the current level, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.
Erasing the target would allow Britain to skirt fines that could reach 10s of millions of pounds since it’s on track to narrowly miss the 2020 goal. It would also move the U.K. out of step with other European Union nations that maintain targets as part of their membership in the region’s energy market. The U.K. wishes to preserve its link to the market and smooth cross-border trading of electricity, which has helped lower power prices, the person said.
“There is a risk that energy gets wrapped up in the wider political negotiation, with the EU seeking to make access to the Internal Energy Market subject to the U.K. signing up to future energy and environment legislation,” said Simon Virley, head of power and utilities at consultants KPMG LLP an a former director-general of the U.K.’s energy and climate ministry. “That is when it could get difficult.”
The move is an example of Prime Minister Theresa May’s government seeking to maintain the most advantageous parts of the EU relationship while scrapping rules concerning to business — the sort of “cherry picking” that the European Commission has ruled out. May began the two-year process of leaving the union on March 29. And while renewables targets and electricity market rules are negotiated differently, they link at the level of political discussions.