The informal meeting of Energy Ministers (Brussels, 6-7 September) was devoted to the theme of fuelling a secure, low-carbon and affordable energy future for Europe, in view of the December TTE Council and the special European Council meeting on energy planned for February 2011.
Consumer protection in the focus
The debates on Monday 6 September were about the consumer-related aspects of the EU’s energy policy. Most of the Member States acknowledged that recent European legislation has already done a lot to improve the energy consumers' rights and interests. But there was also a broad consensus that there still remains substantial room for improvement.
Presiding over the work, Paul Magnette, Belgian Minister for energy, welcomed the determination demonstrated by his European colleagues with regard to taking consumer interests more into account.
In light of a report on the internal market, presented by the former European Commissioner Mario Monti, energy ministers all highlighted the insufficient consideration of consumer interests within the context of invoicing, choice of service provider and opportunities for appealing to an independent mediator in the event of litigation. In the context of the European year against poverty and social exclusion, the Belgian Presidency therefore seized the opportunity at a ministerial level, of examining the phenomenon of energy poverty.
Following Monday’s exchanges and debates, the Presidency has concluded that this issue must remain at the top of the European policy agenda and must work actively to educate and inform the consumers. The Presidency has welcomed the Commission’s proposal to draw up a report with a view to the Energy Council of 2 December
Modernisation of infrastructure
The question of building a modern and integrated European network was at the centre of the debates on Tuesday.
Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for energy declared:
“my objective is the implementation over the next 20 years of quality infrastructure, with a sufficiently dense capacity for gas and electricity. I want this infrastructure to be at the same level as that for the common airspace, motorways and railway networks. A lot needs to be done. Renewables and our competition objectives should be taken into account. However, infrastructure is essential if we are to attain our objectives (Ed: climate and energy security)”.
Ministerial discussions were based on two themes: regulatory shortcomings, which put a brake on market integration and maintain market fragmentation in the absence of sufficient inter-connections (particularly in central and eastern Europe), and sources of funding for energy infrastructure projects.
Ministerial discussions are expected to bring a significant contribution to the work of the European Commission on the next legislative package on energy infrastructure.
Commissioner Oettinger has promised this package by next spring at the latest. A greater awareness characterises the EU27 with regard to the major challenge of the EU modernising infrastructure in this domain.
Website of the Belgian Presidency