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Council adopts conclusions on offshore and other renewable energies

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The Council today (11 December)  adopted conclusions on fostering European co-operation in offshore and other renewable energies. The conclusions give political direction to the Commission to ensure a swift follow-up to these conclusions and the EU Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy, by preparing a proposal for an ‘enabling framework’ at Union level for cross-border and other relevant national renewable energy projects, which are of paramount importance for the EU to become climate-neutral by 2050.

The Council conclusions welcome the Commission’s strategy as a basis for discussions on how to increase the EU's offshore and renewable energies capacity. According to the Council, renewable energy deployment requires the internal energy market to be further integrated, through enhanced interconnectivity among member states, infrastructure and grid development and storage solutions. This would be achieved using more cross-border projects, which require a high level of investor security.

In its conclusions the Council asks the Commission to present an ‘enabling framework’ for cross-border and other relevant national renewable energy projects. Cross-border joint and hybrid offshore projects, connecting to more than one Member State and thereby combining electricity generation, transmission and energy trade, aim to support the integration of growing volumes of renewable energy into the European electricity market.

The Council asks in particular for guidance on how to implement cross-border energy projects and conclude the related bilateral and multilateral agreements between Member States, including analyses for a fair distribution of costs and benefits and a fair cross-border cost allocation. The Council also asks the Commission to present a proposal for an improved and more effective use of existing EU funds by key EU financing instruments and to develop guidance on how to enhance coordination and cooperation among member states on maritime spatial planning, grid planning and technical standards.

As regards the EU electricity market arrangements for hybrid offshore energy projects, the Council asks for an in-depth analysis on how the relevant provisions of EU legislation could be adapted to enable the swift realisation of such projects, while ensuring both the functioning of the internal market and appropriate conditions for electricity generation and integration.

The Council acknowledges that support for research, innovation and demonstration, as well as supply chain development are key to reduce the costs of renewable energy deployment and the related technologies. The Council asks the Commission for a proposal for an improved and more effective use of EU funds for cross-border and national renewable energy projects, especially the Renewable Energy Financing Mechanism of the European Recovery Plan.

The Council also deems it necessary to revise the State aid framework to better support the deployment of renewable energy, ensure investor certainty and research, innovation and large-scale demonstration projects of emerging and innovative technologies.

The conclusions address a wide array of technologies ranging from bottom-fixed and floating offshore wind and solar energy to tidal energy, geothermal energy and biomass. Member states agree that drawing on a pan-European supply chain these technologies can create business opportunities for European industry and contribute to integrating the internal energy market, and ultimately help the EU reach its climate and decarbonisation ambitions for 2050.

Council conclusions - Fostering European Co-operation in Offshore and Other Renewable Energies

Commission Communication entitled 'An EU Strategy to harness the potential of offshore renewable energy'

 

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Climate change

Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans attends Petersberg Climate Dialogue

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Today (7 May), Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans participates in the 12th Petersberg Climate Dialogue, an annual high-level political meeting of over 30 ministers from around the world, co-hosted by the German government and the COP26 Presidency. The meeting will start at 14h CEST  today with remarks by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Their speeches will be live-streamed here. This year's Petersberg Dialogue will focus on the preparations for the upcoming COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. It will address pressing issues such as enhancing countries' climate-resilience and adaptation capacity, scaling up international climate finance, and promoting transparent international carbon market rules. The meeting will be held virtually for the second year in a row due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission will publish Executive Vice-President Timmermans' remarks climate finance on Friday here. For more information see here.

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Environment

EU sets plan to promote rapid green transition of key industries

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The European Union aims to help industries slash greenhouse gas emissions by promoting a rapid expansion of investment in low-carbon technologies, partly through schemes with easier state aid rules, according to a draft policy plan seen by Reuters, writes Kate Abnett.

The EU's target to become climate neutral by 2050, helping curb dangerous global warming, will require a green transition in industrial sectors through a take-up of technologies like renewable hydrogen fuel and energy storage.

A draft of the European Commission's industrial strategy, to be published on Wednesday, outlines how Brussels will help speed investments in those strategic areas, plus others such as raw materials and semiconductors.

The EU is considering ways to support and speed up the rollout of Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI), where member states can pool resources for strategic technologies, the draft said.

IPCEIs allow EU governments to fund projects under easier rules pertaining to state subsidies and for companies to team up on projects that would be too large or risky for one firm alone.

"These projects could accelerate needed investments in the fields of hydrogen, 5G corridors, common data infrastructure and services, sustainable transport, blockchain or European Digital Innovation Hubs," the draft said.

It said some EU states plan to use money from a 672-billion-euro EU COVID-19 recovery fund towards these multi-country projects. Member states must spend 37% of their respective share of recovery funds to support climate objectives.

The Commission is also considering a support scheme, called "contracts for difference", that would guarantee a CO2 price to a project developer regardless of EU carbon market prices.

This could encourage investments in technologies like hydrogen produced from renewable energy. EU carbon prices soared to record highs on Tuesday, but remain far below the price at which analysts say renewable hydrogen could compete with the fossil fuel-based alternative. Read more.

The industry plan slots together with other EU measures to steer cash into green technologies, including its recently-agreed system to classify sustainable investments, and planned environmental standards for electric car batteries sold in Europe.

Brussels will also announce details this summer of a plan to impose carbon border costs on imports of polluting goods. That aims to level the playing field for EU industry and overseas firms by exposing them both to the same carbon price.

The draft industrial plan, reported by Reuters last week, updates a strategy the EU conceived before the COVID-19 pandemic heightened scrutiny of Europe's dependence on foreign suppliers in strategic areas. Read more.

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Agriculture

Commission extends flexibilities of Common Agricultural Policy checks for 2021

EU Reporter Correspondent

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With restrictions still in place across the EU, the Commission has adopted rules to extend to 2021 flexibilities for carrying out checks required for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) support. The rules allow the replacement of on-farm visits with the use of alternative sources of evidence, including new technologies such as satellite imagery or geo-tagged photos. This will ensure reliable checks while respecting the restriction of movement and minimizing physical contact between farmers and inspectors.

Furthermore, the rules include flexibility around timing requirements for checks. This allows member states to postpone checks, notably to a period when movement restrictions are lifted. In addition, the rules comprise a reduction of the number of physical on-the-spot checks to be carried out for area and animal-related measures, rural development investments and market measures. These rules aim to ease the administrative burden of national paying agencies by adapting to current circumstances while still ensuring necessary controls for CAP support. More information on the CAP's management and control systems is available here. More information is also available here.

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