Draft planning template

plan

The Commission met today with member states to discuss a first draft template for prospective “national energy and climate plans” for the period after 2020. A copy of the document can be found here. Depending on the outcome of the ongoing discussions, the template could form part of an EC legislative proposal by the end of this year. Parliament, the Commission said last week, would be consulted later. ❧

Centrica uninterested in nuclear buy

Key Speakers At Ceraweek 2012

Centrica CEO Iain Conn was in Brussels yesterday to talk policy and field questions.

I asked him if he was interested to increase his company’s 20% stake in the UK’s eight remaining nuclear power plants, co-owned with EDF since 2009.

Since last year, the EDF Group has sought to raise cash from asset disposals in several locations including e.g. the UK by selling a further share of its main generation unit.

Essentially, Conn rejected the idea. He said he sees his company’s present 20% holding as being like an “annuity” in assets that were coming to their “end of life, closing in the next 10 to 20 years or so” adding “if anything we’re probably a seller … if the price is right.”

Responding to a seperate question on the Hinkley Point C nuclear new-build project, Conn said Centrica had spent “£321 million on its 20% share of project’s early development costs” before quitting in 2013, the year before the former BP executive joined the company.

In his speech Conn had said that Centrica was open to nuclear being part of the future energy mix in locations where there is government support. ❧

State aid reviews

Vestager coffee

The indifference shown by the Juncker Commission, so far at least, towards bring ETS caps into line with Paris Agreement goals and thus rendering an meaningful carbon price makes it certain that state aid guidelines affecting the energy sector will be extended after 2020. Indeed the Commission’s “energy unionwork programme already sees such a review of the environmental-energy text starting in 2017. With this in mind, here is a check-list of the main texts affecting the energy sector and alongside each the expiry date. For most this is end-2020.

Guidelines

Laws

  • Coal mines 31 December 2027 (operating aid only until end 2018; no review foreseen.)

The above is not an exhaustive list. Transport sectors e.g. are a notable absence. A more comprehensive list can be found on the DG COMP web pages here.

It is also possible that the state aid rules applicable to electricity capacity payments (part of the environment-energy guidelines) could be reviewed earlier than presently foreseen, based on the outcome of the Commission’s ongoing inquiry. ❧

 

Will EDF rescue plan be enough?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Last week’s high-level meetings in Paris finally admitted EDF needs help. The quick list of what’s in a provisional rescue plan looks like this:

  • €1 bn cost savings by 2019
  • €3 bn dividends (‘profits’) converted into shares over two years
  • €4 bn new shares over one year
  • €10 bn so-far-unspecified asset sales by 2020

If all realised, this totals around €18 bn, almost all one-off items.

On diluting the value of existing capital, the investors took a dim view yesterday (25/4) with EDF’s share price falling 11%.

EDF

In its statement late Friday the company did not say which assets it plans to sell off. The group has operations in 15 countries in addition to France, the largest being those in UK and Italy. Media reports over the last year suggest the following main disposals:

  • France: 50% of transmission grid
  • USA: 50% of four nuclear plants
  • UK: Part of 80% ownership of eight nuclear plants
  • Italy: Some or all of Edison stake
  • Poland: Coal capacity and CHP facilities

None of these prospective transactions can be realised quickly. And given the situation and track record across the power utility sector, sums realised may not be as optimistic as so far thought.

What else is EDF up against? Most critical are low wholesale electricity prices and high costs in its home market. The company acknowledges that prices, as elsewhere in continental Europe, are expected to stay low for some years to come.

Against this trend, planned company costs savings, even if further increased, are likely to make little impact, especially alongside investment needs for safety upgrades (post-Fukushima) and proposed plant life-time extensions, the costs of which EDF said was around €55bn last November.

The €18bn gains listed above also compare unfavourably both to the €23bn (£18bn) overnight cost of the Hinkley Point C proposal, albeit spread over ten years and the EDF debt pile of €37bn, which isn’t getting smaller.

Today’s FT Lex column was sceptical of the plan. So am I. This story is far from over. ❧

Free movement maintained

British Prime Minister David Cameron arrives for an official state dinner for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, in front of Germany's President Joachim Gauck's residence Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip are on an official visit to Germany until Friday, June 26. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

My 9-point short summary of Cameron’s ‘EU’ deal:

  • UK “special status” claim: nothing new; past opt-outs (e.g. currency) maintained
  • Treaty change: none in current deal; future changes subject to normal veto
  • Free movement: maintained
  • Economic governance: a Council delegation may temporarily delay a vote on new rules pending further talks, guided by six principles listed in agreement
  • Non-discrimination: (subject to co-decision & possible ECJ review)
    • from 2017 temporary 7-year derogation affecting in-work tax discounts for each new worker tapered over 4 years
    • indexed discounting of non-resident child benefits
    • better controls re non-EU nationals’ access e.g. via ‘sham’ marriages
  • “Ever closer union”: no change to treaty references or meanings. UK likely to get e.g. declaratory protocol annexed at next treaty change
  • Red-card scheme: 55% or more of national parliaments can block a new law
  • De-regulation (‘competitiveness’/’better regulation’): general declarations of intent; specific measures subject to due process e.g. new, amended or repealed EU legislation (Juncker commission already committed to this in 2014)
  • Application: only after UK decides to remain in EU.

 ❧

Tusk’s Six-Pack

2717

Here’s my 600-word structural summary of Tusk’s 2 February six-document reform package, which comprises in draft:

  1. HOGS decision (15 pages, all aspects)
  2. HOGS statement of intent re a future Council decision on Council acts concerning economic governance
  3. three Commission statements of intent re future actions:
    > new EC subsidiarity-check and burden-reduction mechanisms
    > free movement: amend Regulation 492/2011, by co-decision
    > free movement: amend Directive 2004/38, by co-decision
  4. EUCO conclusions on competitiveness

None of the texts propose treaty change. At a later date however some elements may be reflected in treaty changes.

The draft EUCO conclusions on competitiveness (point 4) will apply immediately on adoption, possibly at this month’s summit, and largely restate existing initiatives. The EC statements similarly can be adopted without delay, probably also this month, so allowing work on subsidiarity checks etc to get started and the two legislative bills to be readied for tabling straight after a positive UK referendum outcome.

The legal texts in points 1 and 2 take effect only after the UK has said it will not quit the EU.

The Council Decision (point 2) provides for contentious proposals affecting economic governance to be further debated by the Council prior to voting in that institution in the usual way. (This is not dissimilar to the existing EU treaty Protocol 9, which under the Lisbon Treaty replaced the historical Luxembourg  and Ioannina compromises. It’s unclear why, other than for cosmetic reasons, such a system needs repeating.)

Turning then to the main HOGS Decision text (point 1) and each of its four headings.

First Section A: Economic Governance. After a preamble, seven principles are elaborated that can read directly. The last refers to Section A’s incorporation into the EU treaties at the next revision, though this for now remains in square brackets. Until such time, the section would be aided in practice by the specific provisions contained the Council Decision (point 2) as discussed above.

Section B. Competitiveness is the shortest. Essential it endorses the EUCO conclusions (point 4) and, also as discussed above, points i.a. to the additional EC-led work re subsidiarity/burdens, which probably will begin immediately irrespective on the UK vote.

Section C: Sovereignty contains one new measure, a so-called ‘red card’ system that would be used suspend new legislative bills in the Council if 55% of national parliaments call for this. This is a high threshold so would be difficult to use. That said, it may turn out to be very useful if it encouraged national parliaments to undertake greater scrutiny and discussion of new EU-level proposals. Section C also contains clarifications on existing Treaty provisions in four areas namely: {1} ever closer union, {2} yellow card mechanism {4} freedom, security and justice provisions and protocols and {5} national security.

Lastly Section D: Social Benefits and Free Movement. After a preamble, there follow three sub-sections: clarification of current EU rules, changes to EU rules, and future accession treaties. Clarification is straight forward, as are future accession treaties where member states have both veto and the possibility to erect temporary derogations. For changes to EU rules, thee amending acts are foreseen, all by co-decision, also starting only after a positive UK referendum outcome. These are:

Draft provisions of these bills including e.g. qualification criteria and duration are not yet available though no doubt the EC is already drafting. For now, the next summit sits in just ten working days.

* HOGS = Heads of government and/or state

Council agendas #EU2016NL

Dutch presidency

Scheepsvaartmuseum and Marine Etablissement Amsterdam (MEA). Thanks @EU2016NL

The following summary is extracted from Council doc 15548/15 listing the provisional draft agendas under the incoming Dutch presidency for first-half 2016. For background, see also 18-month work plan in doc 15258/15.

Environment Councils

  • 4 March: Brussels
    • Circular economy; policy debate
    • Paris Agreement; policy debate
    • European Semester, Annual Growth Survey 2016 and 2030 sustainable development agenda; exchange of views
  • 14-15 April, Amsterdam informal, with transport ministers
  • 20 June: Luxembourg
    • ETS revision proposal; policy debate
    • Circular economy; conclusions
    • Wildlife trafficking; exchange of views; (poss) conclusions
    • (poss AOB) not-ETS GHG proposals
    • (poss AOB) Wildlife laws, REFIT outcome

Energy Councils

  • 4 February, Amsterdam
  • 11 April: Amsterdam informal
  • 6 June: Luxembourg
    • revised market arrangements; policy debate
    • heating/cooling & LNG; presentation EC strategies
    • energy labelling rules; progress report
    • gas & IGA lex proposals; progress reports

Foreign Affairs Councils

  • 15 February, Brussels
    • climate diplomacy, revised action plan

In addition, the 17-18 March European Council (gov’t leaders summit) meeting is expected to discuss the Paris Agreement.