Clean Energy Challenges Ahead of the Estonian EU Presidency

Hans De Keulenaer, ECI’s Director of Energy & Electricity, discusses the EU’s clean energy future as Estonia’s EU presidency begins.

The six-month Maltese Presidency of the EU Council has recently come to an end, leaving many observers with several unanswered questions related to energy policy.

The EU’s smallest country was certainly tasked with a challenging job: to initiate and drive discussions on the files of the much-awaited Clean Energy Package, a piece central to the Commission’s flagship Energy Union, released in November 2016. The Maltese government declared energy-efficiency proposals its priority and delivered on its promises, brokering a last-minute agreement by EU Energy Ministers on a general approach to the proposals on energy efficiency and energy performance of buildings, winning praise for its diplomatic skills.

Although reaching a consensus on such divisive topics is good news, the scaled down approach to charging points for electric vehicles is concerning. The Commission’s proposal – already modest – to equip new and renovated nonresidential buildings with one parking space per ten for electro-mobility would have seen over 3 million charging points rolled out. The Council watered this down by 96%, as the Commission highlighted.

The Copper Alliance and the European Copper Institute are also concerned that discussions focused primarily on the nature and number of the energy-efficiency target, instead of looking into more concrete and complex measures offering significant savings potential beyond 2030. We firmly believe the target itself is less important than the type of governance framework that will be put in place to help motivate Member States in reaching energy-efficiency savings.

Which way forward?
We expect discussions on all key Clean Energy Package files to gain momentum – with a broader focus – during the upcoming talks under the incoming Estonian Presidency. We welcome the Estonian government’s commitment to “make a strong contribution to the EU’s efforts to develop energy markets that encourage energy efficiency and investments into energy production and connections,” alongside the intention to “continue work on the energy-efficiency directives.”

We strongly believe that further electrification of the heating and transport sectors is an opportunity for the Clean Energy package. The current approach to electrification is too timid and scattered, especially when considering Europe’s decarbonisation goals. The Estonian Presidency should take account of the latest technological and market developments in this field. Already in 2017, the 10 millionth heat pump will be installed, and the number of electric vehicles on EU roads is approaching 1 million.

Currently energy-savings obligations appear to focus on low-hanging fruit. Extending energy-savings obligations schemes to more complex measures – such as building automation, energy management, sustainable heating and cooling systems or electromobility solutions – would help unlock substantial additional cost-effective energy savings, supporting a much more ambitious target. This broadening would be facilitated by the establishment of an indicative list of pre-approved technical energy-efficiency measures, together with simplified energy-savings accounting methodologies.

On the topic of buildings, we recommend unlocking the vast energy-savings potential of building automation, either via mandatory requirements on technical building systems or as an alternative for inspections. To secure nondiscriminatory access to the market for the most vulnerable consumers, we would also like to see pre-tubing for electro-mobility charging point infrastructure in all new buildings, and those buildings undergoing major renovation.

Finally, with regards to the electricity market design, it is key to explicitly designate national regulatory authorities (NRAs) as well as the EU Distribution System Operators entity to preserve and improve energy efficiency and power quality in networks. We believe capacity markets require a designated compliance supervisory entity to ensure the proper implementation of the principles laid down in the regulation.

“Unity through balance” is the slogan of the Estonian Presidency. It remains to be seen whether Estonia will manage to strike the right balance on the Clean Energy Package proposals, setting the right path to roll out a “Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy.” We look forward to working closely with the Estonian Presidency, as well as the European Parliament, on these important matters.

Read more about the views of the European Copper Institute on the Clean Energy Package here.