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ENERGY COUNCIL : SPANIARDS GET DEAL ON INVESTMENT REPORTING.

At the Energy Council on 12 March, the Spanish Presidency reached political agreement on the draft Regulation on notification, to the Commission, of investment projects in energy infrastructure. The Council also adopted conclusions on the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan following the Commission's original October 2009 communication. Another topic for ministers was their input to the European Council on 25 and 26 March, specifically with respect to the European Strategy for Growth and Jobs.

Most importantly, the ministers sealed agreement on a draft establishing a common framework on notification of energy infrastructure investments. So as to reduce administrative burden, the regulation only concerns projects on which construction has started or on which a final investment decision has been taken. For existing energy infrastructure, in operation, only the total volume of installed production, transmission and storage capacities has to be reported(1).

For Commissioner Oettinger, the proposal is about collecting raw data. "We want to know when, where and what is being invested as well as in what technology," said Oettinger, rebutting Parliament's suggestion that the proposal falls under the Lisbon Treaty's new co-decision energy article 194. "It's not about decisions, but about the basis for decision." Oettinger, nonetheless, took pains to massage Parliament's ego, noting that it has full rights of co-decision as to the policy flowing from energy data collected.

"We would also have liked to have taken into account smaller investments," said Oettinger, a reference to the exclusion of wind farms below a capacity of 20 MW. "But we respect member states' concerns as to the administrative burden." The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) had calculated that using a cut-off limit of 20MW would miss at least one-third of all new onshore wind power installations. In a report by Adina-Ioana Valean (ALDE, Romania), adopted on 4 March, the EP proposes including investments in wind projects of more than 5 MW onshore and 20 MW offshore. Wind, though, accounted, in 2009, for 39% of all newly installed electricity-generating capacity in Europe.

STRATEGIC ENERGY TECHNOLOGY

The Council also adopted conclusions on the SET Plan. A key issue for the Spaniards has been making sure that the Council conclusions are both "technology neutral" and do not prejudge the outcome of the negotiations on the next financial framework. They also had to step lightly with respect to the applicable financing rules for RTD programmes.aMinisters, therefore, gently invite member states, where possible and taking into account budgetary constraints, merely to be ready to offer the "appropriate incentives" and "consistent policy signals". If necessary, this may include significantly increasing the public funding of "safe and sustainable low carbon technology development". The Council's timid wording is far removed from the Commission's estimated additional investment bill, over 2010-2020, of 50 bn euros in clean energy technology.

Background

The Commission's July 2009 proposal, repealing current Regulation 736/96, aims to obtain a better overview of energy infrastructure investment trends in the EU. This relates to the need to enhance security of energy supply but also to tackle new challenges, such as the increased use of renewables and further construction of the internal energy market. The proposal covers energy infrastructure in main energy sectors, such as oil, including biofuels, electricity, including nuclear, and gas. Also covered are related areas, such as the transport and storage of carbon related to energy production. Transparency on planned and ongoing investment projects should help assess whether there is a risk of infrastructure gaps.

(1) Member states have been promised ample opportunity to discuss the (future) Commission notification template.
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Publication:Europe Energy
Date:Mar 24, 2010
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