HC Deb 20 May 1998 vol 312 cc392-3W
Mr. Sawford

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what was the outcome of the Energy Council meeting on 11 May. [43180]

Mr. Battle

The Council considered several issues and received reports on matters of interest. I chaired the meeting.

I am particularly pleased to report that the Council was able to adopt the gas directive following the European Parliament's second reading. I regard this as an important development towards the completion of the single market in energy. It will lead to a more competitive market and a better deal for consumers.

The Council held a positive and constructive open debate on energy and the environment. It focused on three questions: enhancing renewable energies by making them cost competitive; promoting energy efficiency and CHP; and promoting environmental objectives. Member states underlined the importance of linking an energy response to Kyoto and outlined their actions at national level. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment as President of the EU Environmental Council was able to attend for the open debate demonstrating a joint approach to environmental issues between Energy and Environment Ministers.

Following the open debate Council adopted a Presidency proposal for Council conclusions on the energy response to Kyoto which agreed the need for action both at national and EU level in the areas of renewable energies, combined heat and power and energy efficiency. The Council also adopted a Resolution in response to the Commission's White Paper on renewable energy sources which urges Member States to develop national strategies with a view to bringing about a substantial increase in the use of renewables throughout the EU. The Council agreed that the White Paper's indicative target of 12 per cent. for the European Union as a whole by 2010 provides useful guidance for these increased efforts. I regard such action as a win win win situation where new jobs in new energy services and new technologies will be created as a result of tackling environmental challenges.

The Council held an orientation debate on the energy framework programme to bring together all community energy specific programmes e.g. ALTENER, SAVE to support energy efficiency as well as a new programme to promote clean solid fuel technology. There was broad consensus on the approach and the text, and progress was made on technical aspects of the decision. The discussion on the budget was deferred until after the opinion of the European Parliament.

The Council received presentations from the Commission on the development of the single market in electricity and harmonisation requirements following the electricity directive. The Commission also gave a progress report on the Energy Charter Treaty and presentations on a proposal for a Council directive amending the Directive on minimum oil stocks, a review on Coal State Aids Decision Coal and information on the oil refining market. Political agreement was also reached on the ALTENER II decision following the European parliament's second reading.

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