Germany, coal and climate pollution

German coalGerman draft plans to close coal-fired power plants will not lead to any extra cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. Why? Because Germany has no plans (so far) to reduce the number of ETS allowances that it auctions each year going forward.

In other words, the surplus pollution rights, no longer required by operators of the affected installations, can be bought and used by any of the other 12,000 installations elsewhere in the EU. Allowances bought in one year can also be saved for use in any subsequent year.

Firms operating coal-fired power plants in Poland e.g. will very pleased at the extra surplus allowances available to them, pushing down EU-wide carbon prices even further and thus prolonging by years the time by which they will have to burn less coal and diversify across other energy options.

There’s more

Other important questions remain to be answered in Berlin. Will owners of the closed installations be compensated for further income now forgone? According to press reports, some at least are seeking this. And if this happens, where will the money come from? ETS revenues perhaps? In any case, would such compensation from state resources be subject to state aid control and possible veto by the European Commission?

More interestingly, and perhaps as an alternative to direct compensation payments, if delivery of domestic plans requires German’s ‘Big Four’ companies to conclude with each other, and an effect of which would be to increase profits through higher wholesale domestic power prices, would this not also raise competition i.e. anti-trust concerns with the European Commission?

Lots of ground still to cover in these issues that I don’t think will be answered any time soon.


Council conclusions to say nothing new

asleep (1)

On 9 December EU energy ministers will agree further conclusions on the internal energy market. Based on a collection of passive verbs, the final text was agreed in advance by deputy perm reps in Coreper-1 this week and so all that remain to be done is for ministers to show-up and slap each other on the back for the cameras.

Council conclusions are rarely translated, never indexed, never published in the Official Journal and as such are usually forgotten about within a few months if not sooner. But before this latest text is forgotten, it’s worth checking if it says anything new of note.

I’ve checked, and it doesn’t.

What’s next?

Energy policy contains 4 objectives, not 3 or 5

EU project team mtg 1 nov14

European Union energy policy contains four objectives, not three or five. But sit through any high-level speech these days – such as those by Šefčovič and Arias Cañete due Monday (event link) – and more likely than not you will hear the opposite claimed.

In the new mandate, an “energy union” of five “pillars” could soon replace the former “energy triangle” of three “corners” (though the later idea is unlikely to die easily). Such a move is only a recipe for more chaos, confusion and delay.

If not fixed, it will only slow our recovery from the neglect and incompetence of the Barroso-Oettinger years. The resolution of real-world situations such as pollution into the sky and billions cash exiting our borders to buy ever more fuel will only stall.

EU energy policy in fact contains four objectives, laid out in the Treaty as follows:

Article 194
1. In the context of the establishment and functioning of the internal market and with regard for the need to preserve and improve the environment, Union policy on energy shall aim, in a spirit of solidarity between Member States, to:

  (a) ensure the functioning of the energy market; 
  (b) ensure security of energy supply in the Union; 
  (c) promote energy efficiency and energy saving and the
development of new and renewable forms of energy; and

  (d) promote the interconnection of energy networks.
(EurLex source)

To get things done, we must avoid what is fashionable, vague or convenient for what is specific and known. To get things done, we also need to have a basic text common to all Union institutions rather than many different ad hoc texts in each. The treaties and existing legislation (the acquis) provide this. Courts cannot settle disputes on the basis on speeches or political declarations. Our Union is a union built on the rule of law already. Another new gimmicky union risks only to distract from the original authentic one.

So to help untangle the plate of cold spaghetti in front of us, I’ve quickly made the table below. It aims to summarise the different strands of the present debate, anchored in our treaty framework. I’m sure it could be improved and certainly it can be argued over. But it done quickly to share ahead of the Monday “energy union” launch conference (and thus this post at 11am Saturday).

Please let me know what you think, e.g. what if any changes would you make?

EU energy objectives

 Click to enlarge. Also >> A4 PDF version.

Jean-Claude’s Method

Day 2

Here’s the leaked memorandum on the working methods of the new Commission, circulated by Jean-Claude Juncker to other Commissioners on Wednesday.

At 38 pages, including five annexes, there no doubt plenty here for policy people across Brussels and beyond to get their teeth into.

In the introduction, the President’s “guidelines” (word taken from treaties) are referred to as “rules”, which is a rather interesting slight of hand by the SG.

Moreover, such a memo requires no change to or re-examination of the EC’s formal procedural rules (EurLex) and so the College’s choice of secret voting and secret minutes continues. (See my 9 September blog.)

Probably more to come back to and discuss when I’ve read the doc fully.


New College, old rules

new college STR

The new European Commission so far has no plans to change its procedural rules, according to an official reply from the secretariat general on 22 October (copied below).

Making his portfolio allocations eight weeks ago, President Juncker announced five project teams each led by a vice-president who, he said, would control access to the College agenda in their respective areas.

However how this system will work appears, on the first working day of the new Commission, still not to have been written down anywhere. Why not?

While it’s fair to allow any new team time to settle down when taking office, Juncker was confirmed as the incoming EC president more than three months ago (15 July).

He (and Catherine Day, the nine-years-in-office EC secretary general) ought by now to have some plan as to how they proprose their new new system will work. Do they? And how long before we (and the College members themselves) find out?


From: Mark Johnston
Sent: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 3:10 PM
Subject: Access to documents: EC Rules of Procedure
dear Secretary General,
Application for access to documents: EC Rules of Procedure
Please provide public access to all documents containing proposals to change the European Commission’s rules of procedure currently in force.
Thank you in advance.
Kind regards,
Mark Johnston


From: <>
Date: 22 October 2014 17:30
Subject: FW: Access to documents: EC Rules of Procedure — Ref. Gestdem 2014/4911 To:

Dear Mr. Johnston,
Thank you for your e-mail, requesting access to documents under Regulation No 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.Currently, there is no document containing proposals for changes to the Commission’s rules of procedure in force.
Yours sincerely,

For the Registry Director
Martine DEPREZ
European Commission
Secretariat General/Head of Unit SG.A.1 (Registry)

The guardians have failed us


Hinkley Point is decided. The so-called guardians of EU law failed us, the single energy market broken, the rule of law diminished, and Europe’s so-called “energy union” still born. If we’re lucky it will take us five maybe ten years to recover from the Hinkley scandal. If we’re unlucky, then never.


Austria has said it will seek an ECJ annulment while three other states have said they are considering to join too. Perhaps the Court will apply EU single market rules where the Commission lacked the guts to do so, though its recent record is patchy. The Luxembourg process will take 1-2 years which provides time for others to recover their senses and potentially a change of UK government next May. The legal issues I’ll return to after EC’s text is out except to say here the applicants have a good case based on the fundamental legal principles at stake.

Farage fear fever

So what’s the context for this car crash? Whether it be more efficient vacuum cleaners or massive nuclear subsidies, it seems everyone is scared of the tyranny of UKIP and its ring-leader Nigel Farage.

This week Cameron has finally been reduced to gibberish, saying he will give Europe “a last chance” to reform even before the UK has said what reforms it wants. Huh? If the UK’s unspecified demands are not met, Cameron says he will vote for an EU exit in a 2017 UK referendum. Panicking or what?

Faced with this growing Brexit fever, up on the Berlaymont bridge Captain Catherine Day ordered the guardians to roll-over, put aside the rule of law and say to the UK it can burn its citizens money on a vanity project that in cash terms out-sizes the Channel tunnel.

Claims by VPs Almunia and Oettinger that the EC decision, to be published in the Official Journal Lex series, still does not create legal precedent are hard to reconcile with every other non-EC commentator (and some inside the EC) who take the opposite view.

By allowing Farage to hold Cameron and Day hostage, what exactly are we getting in return?

Commission wreckage

ENER, CLIMA and ENV are nominally the lead teams on the internal market and environmental protection (competences the Union shares with national administrations).

But it seems these services were ambushed by an unholy coalition of SG, SJ and COMP leaderships, reversing the initial grave scepticism tabled by the Commission at the end of 2013. On the final act, reducing the inter-service consultation (ISC) from three weeks to three days and hiding the process behind the EP Juncker hearings were key elements in Day’s manipulation.

What does all this mean for the effective functioning of the Commission in the future remains to be seen. Nothing will change much so long as Captain Day remains on the bridge (almost nine years in the job and counting). The incoming Juncker matrix will take months or perhaps years to find its equilibrium, so centre of power remains with SG. (Perhaps the matrix was even designed for that purpose?)

On Tuesday this week, DG ENER held a rapidly-organised event both to say ‘goodbye’ to Oettinger and formally to confirm Brussels worst kept secret that the internal energy market will not be “complete” by the end of this year. After speaking in favour of the single market, Oettinger then went on to admit he’d voted against it, underlining the extent to which his disparate services in Rue De Mot and Luxembourg have been left high and dry by the centralisation of power in the Berlaymont.

And so to new guardians?

Will Šefčovič and Arias Cañete et al be the best guys to help us recover from the Hinkley Point wreckage? That’s a discussion for another day.