The Coming Storm (of Legislation!)

As the long days of summer are moving behind us, the time is approaching for us to focus our energy on the forthcoming regulatory storm. As you will all be aware the end of 2016 is set to see the following major policy initiatives unleashed by the European Commission:

  • The Electricity Market Design Package, which will determine the framework for solar in Europe from 2020. (Expected November)
  • The outcome of the trade case. (Expected between October and January 2017)
  • The Re-cast Renewable Energy Directive, containing the new targets for renewable energy for 2030. (Expected November)
  • The Energy Efficiency and Energy Performance of Buildings Directives, with opportunities for Building Integrated PV. (Expected  between October and November)
  • A potential Eco-Design proposal for PV systems and an Eco-label for solar modules. (Expected September)

It’s going to be a busy autumn with these major regulatory initiatives set to appear one after another through to the end of the year. Of course, the big question is what can we expect? And what do the European leaders think about each package?

In the heady summer days of July, I had the opportunity to present the views of SolarPower Europe on energy prices and costs to the assembled EU Energy Ministers in Bratislava. This meeting took place under the patronage of the Council of the EU Presidency, currently held by Slovakia.

The meeting allowed SolarPower Europe to gain first-hand insight to the Ministers’ thinking on crucial topics like Market Design and the re-cast Renewable Energy Directive, soon to be presented by the Commission. Having outlined the key policy asks of SolarPower Europe, I was then able to enjoy hearing the Ministers debate on the issues that they considered the most important for their country and what they expected the European Commission to do.

The three main takeaways from the discussion were the following:

  1. Every Member State has its own energy priorities and specificities and gaining consensus on the way forward on electricity market design will be difficult for the European Commission. For example, Slovenia and the Netherlands spoke out against Capacity Remuneration Mechanisms, while others seemed to infer their necessity.
  2. All participants agreed that the internal energy market must be completed as a crucial step for European energy policy. This should result in a more liquid and flexible energy market.
  3. All participants agreed that the Emission Trading System (ETS) needs reinforcing, but Poland, Belgium and France made strong interventions on protecting energy-intensive industries from carbon leakage.

There was much support for renewables, with Sweden mentioning a 100% renewables electricity system in the future, however, it was not entirely clear how this would actually be implemented. Support for auctions was mentioned in passing and one country seemed to suggest that direct subsidies for large scale should still be allowed, but one had the impression that there was little coherence between the Member States on these points.

This all means that SolarPower Europe will need to continue its intensive engagement with national governments, the European Commission and the European Parliament to make sure that the forthcoming regulatory initiatives build the right framework for solar to shine in Europe and across the world.

By James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe

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