18th Mar 2018

Commission shrugs off jab on EU energy 'slogan'

  • 'Let's not qualify member states by their initial ambition and declaration,' said Miguel Arias Canete (Photo: Council of the European Union)

EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete has shrugged off recent dismissal of the commission's "energy efficiency first" policy.

"Let's not qualify member states by their initial ambition and declaration. Let's see the final product," he said at a press conference in Brussels on Monday (5 March).

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The commission is currently negotiating the final version of an energy efficiency bill which it first proposed in November 2016.

The "energy efficiency first" principle is at the heart of commission text, but a "majority" of EU states see the three little words "more as a slogan" than anything substantial, according to a recent working paper in the EU Council, where national governments meet.

The leaked paper, which EUobserver reported about, also said that member states, not EU institutions, should remain in charge of deciding whether they prioritise energy savings.

The bill needs the approval from both council and parliament before it becomes law.

"We will test the level of ambition of the different member states," Canete on Monday, referring to the ongoing, so-called trilogue talks.

"When we finish the trilogue, I will say if there is ambition or no ambition on the side of the council. I will be an honest broker between the 35 percent of the parliament and the position of the council," Canete said.

The commission initially proposed to reduce energy use by 30 percent in 2030, which the council supports, but the parliament said that figure should be 35 percent.

The talks are being led by Bulgaria, because it holds the rotating six-month council presidency.

Its environment minister, Neno Dimov, did not clearly say if he agreed with the leaked paper's statement that "energy efficiency first" was just a "slogan".

Instead, he said Bulgaria was "working very seriously" on energy use reduction.

"For the last two years and several months, we have invested over 2 billion Bulgarian leva for energy efficiency of households," said Dimov.

"I don't think this is an amount which is negligible for our country, just the opposite."

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The EU also agreed on financing a study into the Southern Gas Corridor, to send a signal that the EU is still invested in the project - but leaves questions over renewable energy sources.

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