Energy Budget Cuts Will Hit EU’s Low Carbon Ambitions

From Euro Active

Cuts to the energy infrastructure package in the EU’s new budget will increase costs and delays to the European Commission’s plans for a low carbon economy by 2050, Philip Lowe, the EU’s top energy civil servant said on Friday (8 February).

EU commissioners publicly welcomed the budget agreement’s green energy credentials after protracted and often fractious negotiations.

The climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard professed delight at an “incredibly important day for Europe” after an EU pledge to ring-fence 20% of the budget’s €960 billion for climate measures was left standing when the budget hawks had finished their work.

But the response from the EU’s energy directorate was more guarded.

“This is at least a door opener for interconnecting European energy infrastructure in the coming years,” said Günther Oettinger, the energy commissioner. “We need to make the most out of it by using innovative financial instruments.”

Nonetheless, he warned that “if we have to make choices, that means for example, we cannot co-finance all grids necessary to connect off or onshore wind parks to the big cities.”

In the hours leading up to the final deal, Philip Lowe, the director of the EU’s energy directorate was equally cautious. Asked by EurActiv whether proposed cuts to the energy infrastructure package would affect Europe’s ability to scale back emissions to 80-95% of their 1990 levels by mid-century, he replied: “of course”.

“Any decision that fails to recognise the need to make rapid progress now increases the costs for the future of providing this infrastructure, and any decision that delays the planning and implementing of grid infrastructure will certainly frustrate investments,” he said.

European leaders signed off on a €5.1 billion envelope for energy infrastructure projects as part of the Connecting Europe facility. This is almost half the European Commission’s initial proposal of €9.1 billion, which was intended to leverage €200 billion of private sector funding for vital grid transmission projects, in the form of project bonds.

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