State may not support binding renewables targets - Rabbitte

Minister for Energy says there are ‘legacy issues’ for Ireland over EU policy

Speaking ahead of a meeting of EU energy ministers this morning, Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte said there were ’legacy issues’ for Ireland in relation to EU energy policy.Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Speaking ahead of a meeting of EU energy ministers this morning, Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte said there were ’legacy issues’ for Ireland in relation to EU energy policy.Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

Ireland may not necessarily support the introduction of mandatory national renewable energy targets for member states under forthcoming EU legislation, Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has said, pointing out that Ireland was subject to a “disproportionate” share of binding targets under the current EU climate change package.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of EU energy ministers this morning, the Minister for Energy said there were “legacy issues” for Ireland in relation to EU energy policy.

“I think it is generally admitted now that Ireland got a disproportionate share of the burden last time out. We have to be conscious of that. As a result we are minded to make haste slowly. But that doesn’t mean to say that we in any way we resile from the impetus that is behind renewables in Irish energy policy,” he said.

Ireland was given a target of 16 per cent of consumption to come from renewables by 2020 under the last EU Climate Change package which runs until 2020.

Energy ministers from across the European Union are meeting today in Brussels for the first time since the European Commission unveiled its Climate and Energy package in January.

The package, which will govern the EU’s climate and energy policy post-2020, envisages a 40 per cent decrease in carbon emissions from 1999 levels by 2030, and an EU-wide target of 27 per cent for renewable energy.

The suggestion that the 27 per cent target should not involve specific national targets for member states - unlike the current 2020 framework - has been criticised by environmental groups, who believe that the removal of an obligation on each country to hit renewable targets will discourage renewable energy production. Poland and Britain, which is increasing its support for nuclear energy and fracking, are two of the countries which have been strongly advocating the removal of national binding targets.

The issue will dominate the summit of EU leaders in Brussels in just over two weeks’ time, with today’s meeting of EU energy ministers acting as an initial ‘sounding-out’ meeting according to officials.

Like agriculture, environmental policy is one of the areas of EU policy-making that has a direct effect on national policy, with member states obliged to reach specific energy targets.

The proposal to introduce a 27 per cent EU-wide renewable target would remove the obligation on some states to meet specific targets. Ireland, for example, was given a target of 16 per cent for renewable energy under the 2020 climate package, but has been referred to the European Court of Justice for its failure to reach the targets in some areas.

“It is probably is not a bad idea that there should be some flexibility that acknowledges the differences in particular states and so on, but really we haven’t got to that stage,” Mr Rabbitte said this morning, noting that Ireland’s reduction target had been difficult for the country to meet in some areas.