But does its new mammoth package provide the right framework to unleash its potential?

Winter has arrived in Brussels, and so has the Commission’s long-awaited Winter Package, released on 30 November. Soaked in language around the promise of (clean) jobs creation, increased competitiveness and growing GDP, the package, entitled ‘Clean Energy For All Europeans’, outlines three main goals:

  1. Putting energy efficiency first,
  2. Achieving global leadership in renewable energies and
  3. Providing a fair deal for consumers.

Click here for a more detailed outline of the package

To achieve this, the Commission has put on the table a series of proposals for revisions of existing regulation – the Energy Efficiency Directive, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, the Renewable Energy Directive, as well as the Regulation and related Directive on the design of the energy market. New rather than recast is the governance piece with the Proposal for a regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union. Add to this a number of Communications – on innovation, on clean transport, on eco-design, and the framing piece on Clean Energy For All, and it’s clear that everyone in the energy community will have plenty to digest the next few weeks beyond way too many mince pies and festive drinks.

So, has Christmas come early this year then?  The Commission certainly thinks so, pointing to the massive potential unleashed by the various components of the package that consumers and industry can now harness:  

Thanks to the policies proposed today by the Commission, industrial production could increase in the construction sector by up to 5%, in the engineering, iron and steel sectors by up to 3.8 and 3.5% respectively, translating into 700.000 additional jobs in construction, 230,000 in engineering and 27,000 in the iron and steel sectors”.  In fact, the Commission says, “theClean Energy for All Europeans” proposals are designed to show that the clean energy transition is the growth sector of the future - that's where the smart money is”.

Zooming in on Energy Efficiency and Renewables

Stakeholders, as expected, have been more measured in their initial reactions. It is difficult to find a gift that suits all shapes, sizes and persuasions, and the Winter Package is no exception.  For green stakeholders across NGOs and the business community, as well as many MEPs, the introduction of a binding 30% energy efficiency target is seen as an important and necessary improvement on the original 2012 Directive, and a vital market signal. Alas, many say it is not nearly ambitious enough: “With a 30% binding energy efficiency target for 2030, the European Commission takes a small step in the right direction as it merely ensures continuing the business as usual scenario, missing a once-in-a-decade opportunity to boost the energy efficiency market”, said Adrian Joyce, Secretary General of EuroACE, the European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings. Others, meanwhile, see the proposed 30% binding headline target as distorting the balance especially between the energy efficiency and CO2 reduction target. The Magritte Group, a group composed of the CEOs of some of the largest European energy companies has been vocal in the run-up to the Winter Package release that their money is on a strong EU ETS as the best way forward, rather than binding energy efficiency and renewables targets.

On the subject of renewables, the fate of the Renewables Directive is another key discussion point: the Commission’s stated intention is one of achieving global leadership in renewable energies. The proposal, however, suggests an EU-wide 27% objective for renewable energy by 2030 which will only be binding at EU level, but not be shared out in detail between Member States contrary to the existing 2020 objectives. This is a regret for many, including the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, which has many large and visible members. It will discourage Member States from engaging with the targets, either because they have no incentive to do more than they are already doing, or because they have no interest in really doing anything to begin with and will be able to fly under the radar due to the lack of binding targets. As a result, investment into the sector in Europe will be negatively affected, they say, and some clean-tech investment will likely be shifted to markets such as the United States and China, counter to the EU objective of increased global leadership. Claude Turmes, a leading, Green MEP representing Luxembourg talks about a lost decade vis-à-vis renewables in a tweet that said:


He went on to call for “a coalition of progressive member states, MEPs, NGOs and companies to move from #CleanEnergyEU towards #GreenEnergyEU!”

Commissioner for Energy and Climate Miguel Arias Cañete remained stoic at the Commission midday briefing when confronted with the perceived lack of ambition from some stakeholders, saying that the figures put forward were grounded in the (in some quarters much criticized) data put forward in the impact assessments. Furthermore, he said, “it’s very easy for an NGO to make recommendations but it’s much harder to reach an agreement at the European Parliament and the Council.” In that he is right, of course, and while we have some good indications already, it is only as the Parliament and Council (and the broader stakeholder community with it) start unpacking, assessing and debating the more than 1000 pages of text that together make up the Winter Package, that we will get a real sense of where it might land.

The Council will have an initial discussion of the Winter Package on 5 December, where the Commission will present to ministers the main elements of the package. With the Slovaks thus kicking off the work as the current presidency of the Council, it will be for the Maltese, the EU’s smallest Member State, to drive it forward when they take over on 1 January for a 6-month period.  They have already indicated that from the mammoth package just presented, the Energy Efficiency Directive (and the related Energy Performance of Buildings Directive) will be their priority. Their approach, they said, would be “pragmatic and realistic”. Arias Cañete said in his press conference that “Europe is on the brink of a clean energy revolution”. A pragmatic and realistic take on a revolution starts, I would argue, with a resolution that genuine change is needed and wanted for the EU as a whole and individual Member States.

Julie Kjestrup

Julie Kjestrup is a director in APCO Worldwide’s Brussels office, where she heads up our energy and environment practice, and also works for clients on health care and biotech issues. Read More