I am writing to report discussions at the Energy Council in Luxembourg on 13 June, where I represented the UK.
Under the first item on the agenda the Council reached political agreement on the Greek Presidency’s compromise text on the Proposal to amend the Renewable Energy Directive and the Directive relating to the quality of petrol and diesel fuels. The proposal is intended to address Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC), which occurs when production of biofuels from crops grown on existing agricultural land results in the displacement of production on to previously uncultivated land.
I and several Member States voted in favour while indicating disappointment with the agreement’s lack of ambition. Other Member States made a statement that the cap on first generation biofuels must not be lowered from 7% during negotiations with the European Parliament. While the UK has consistently argued for a 5% cap on the contribution from food-based biofuels and the introduction of ILUC factors and considers it regrettable that the cap on food crops in the Council proposal is as high as 7%, we supported the compromise package as it represented the best compromise possible and is preferable to the status quo that would place no restriction on the expansion of food based fuels.
This discussion was followed by a policy debate on the follow-up to the March European Council. The debate covered the three linked issues of European energy security, the internal energy market and the 2030 climate and energy framework. The Greek Presidency opened the debate by asking Member States for their priorities under the three issues. Commissioner Oettinger spoke to advocate the prioritisation of a smaller number of Projects of Common Interest to help the most vulnerable Member States and a new interconnection target of 15%.
I proposed that the June European Council should focus on short-term measures to address energy security and to prepare for potential disruptions this winter. I and a number of other Member States also called for decisions on energy security and the 2030 climate and energy framework to be taken in parallel by the European Council. Some Member States asked for decisions on energy security to be prioritised at the June European Council. There was some support for the Commission’s proposal for a 15% interconnection target but others expressed caution, noting that it could impose additional costs on consumers.
I with a number of Member States supported the proposal to prioritise a small number of key infrastructure projects to help the most vulnerable regions. Some Member States noted that prioritisation of infrastructure projects should not be at the expense of other energy infrastructure priorities such as addressing energy isolation and the exploitation of indigenous resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.
A number of Member States noted the importance of energy efficiency to the 2030 and energy security strategies.
Ministers adopted conclusions on energy prices, competitiveness and vulnerable consumers without discussion.
There was a second debate on international relations, focusing on the value of multilateral energy frameworks (such as the Energy Charter Treaty, the Energy Community Treaty and the International Energy Agency). The Greek Presidency emphasised the importance of developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and the contributions that gas supplies in the region can make to energy security in the EU. The Commission focused on the Energy Community and the role that it can play in the energy security of the European neighbourhood.
Over lunch, Commissioner Oettinger updated Ministers on the energy situation in Ukraine.