The EU has pledged that 27 percent of its energy will come from renewables by 2030 — but now the fight is over how individual countries are supposed to pitch in to reach that goal, addressed in a draft proposal issued by Luxembourg this week.
At issue is how much flexibility member states should have when drawing up their national climate and energy plans, which will be key in reaching the collective target, and how strong the European Commission’s role should be in monitoring progress.
Some countries, especially the U.K. and central and eastern Europeans, want a soft, non-legislative approach which would not interfere with their right to decide their energy mix. In other words, it would allow the U.K. to continue building nuclear power plants and exploring for shale gas, while coal would continue to play an important part in Poland’s power generation.
But other countries keener on slashing emissions and switching to solar and wind, like Germany, Denmark and Sweden, want a tougher system to ensure that everyone is doing their fair share.
The worry is that while the EU may reach its promised target by 2030, it could do so thanks to expensive and painful steps by some countries, while others free-ride and do much less.
The dispute — known as “governance” — goes to the heart of the division of powers between Brussels and member states.
Luxembourg, which holds the presidency of the EU’s Council of Ministers, has spelled out its ideas for how to finesse the issue in a first draft of conclusions submitted September 1. The goal of the Luxembourg presidency was to present a methodology for drafting national plans. Officials say the idea was to move away from political discussions and towards more technical ones.
National climate and energy plans should outline a country’s goals and “set out a realistic indicative trajectory for the achievement of these targets and objectives,” says the draft.
The seven-page document emphasizes the need for regional cooperation and calls on states to submit progress reports every two years. National representatives have until September 10 to send in their feedback. The first working group meeting is scheduled for September 15.
Officials are gearing up for a brutal debate as they try to hammer out a final text over the next months.
“What we are looking for is enough flexibility to shape our energy policy to take into account our specificities,” one official from a CEE country said on condition of anonymity.
Several EU countries have already circulated informal papers on the topic, either warning against a monitoring mechanism that is too strict or advocating for robust and binding legal frameworks.
The U.K. and the Czech Republic wrote in a joint paper at the beginning of the year that the governance system should be “light touch and non-legislative so as to respect member states flexibility over its choice of measures and technologies.”
The same line of argument also comes from countries such as Poland and its neighbors who worry that tough rules could harm their industries.
However, in a paper issued over the summer, Germany said there should be “consequences” if countries cannot meet renewables targets. While potential penalties are not spelled out, the uncertainty “constitutes a significant incentive” for member states to pledge a low level of renewables so that they aren’t punished later, according to the paper.
Enforcing compliance is still missing from the draft Council conclusions put out by Luxembourg, said Arno Behrens, head of energy and research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies, a think tank.
The text mentions a system allowing for “timely corrective action to be taken,” if countries are falling short. But it isn’t clear what would happen if the collective 27 percent renewables target isn’t reached, he added.