Integrating the environment into Community energy policy
The European Union is establishing a set of measures for further integration of environmental considerations in energy policy and is reviewing progress made so far.
Communication from the Commission of 14 October 1998: Strengthening environmental integration within Community energy policy [COM(98) 571 - Not published in the Official Journal].
As pointed out in the Commission Communication "An overall view of energy policy and actions", the production, transport and use of energy have a considerable impact on the environment. One of the main challenges facing Community energy policy is therefore to incorporate the environmental dimension into its objectives and actions while developing a sustainable energy policy. The Communication proposes specific measures to this end and reviews progress made.
So far, the Community has taken several measures which may help to integrate the environment into energy policy. Various examples are quoted: the directive on large combustion plants, the communications on combined heat and power production [COM(97) 514 final] and on the disposal of disused offshore oil and gas installations, as well as various steps taken under the SAVE, ALTENER and JOULE-THERMIE programmes and the framework programmes for research and technological development. In addition, new legislative measures had been proposed concerning the taxation of energy products, waste incineration and polluting emissions from motor vehicles (the 'Auto-Oil' programme). The Commission intends to do all it can to back up these measures.
The integration of environmental aspects within energy policy should take place in a balanced way, with account being taken of the other priority goals of energy policy such as competitiveness and security of supply, and should be based on facts and analysis.
Appropriate steps must be taken at all levels (local, regional, national, Community). Member States have the primary responsibility to act. Regional and local authorities may, in turn, play a leading role in energy management and energy services. Such activities will be complemented and reinforced by a number of actions at Community level.
The Commission identifies three main objectives of Community energy policy that take account of the environmental dimension:
- to promote energy efficiency/saving;
- to increase the share of production, and use, of cleaner energy sources;
- to reduce the environmental impact of the production and use of energy sources.
To achieve these objectives, action in the following areas is proposed:
- Facilitating cooperation between the Community, the Member States and relevant parties.
This cooperation should involve the exchange of information, the dissemination of best practice and shared analysis (ETAP programme). Greater participation of local and regional authorities is also envisaged.
- Promoting specific energy policy actions.
These measures, developed under the framework programme for actions in the energy sector (1998-2002), should help in developing renewable sources (ALTENER programme), increasing energy efficiency (SAVE programme) and promoting combined heat and power production (co-generation). Generally speaking, the regulatory framework of the energy sector has to be amended to take account of environmental objectives.
- Ensuring better coordination with other Community policy measures in the energy field.
Research policy (in particular, the "Preserving the ecosystem" programme), regional policy, the trans-European networks, agricultural policy and industrial, transport and tax policies should all contribute to the sustainable development of energy resources.
- Developing the energy policy response to climate change and the results of the follow-up negotiations to Kyoto.
- Developing the external dimension of energy policy. It is important to have an increased dialogue with other countries, both industrialised and developing, on the scope for promoting sustainable energy systems and energy sources.
- Establishing a monitoring system and identifying indicators in order to monitor progress in environmental integration.
Existing indicators will be examined in cooperation with Member States to ensure that they are appropriate.
Some of these measures will be developed by the Commission while others require a special effort from the Council and the Parliament. As joint decision-makers, the latter will have to establish a clear strategy for integrating environmental questions in energy policy and to identify priorities for action.
A table appended to the Communication lists the specific measures to be taken, combined with an indicative timetable.