ENVE Commission: EU must make tackling energy poverty a priority

Christian Illedits

​With energy prices in Europe rising and real income continuing to fall, members of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) called on the EU to make tackling energy poverty a top priority. Through an opinion penned by Christian Illedits (PES/AT), member of the Austrian Burgenland regional parliament, members of the Environment, Climate Change and Energy Commission (ENVE) argued that an EU-wide definition of energy poverty must be coupled with further investment in alternative forms of energy.  The EU must also target its resources to those regions most susceptible to energy rises.

The opinion, which will be presented for adoption during the CoRs' April plenary, notes that with electricity prices soaring by as much as much as 29% between 2005-2011, 50m – 125m EU citizens suffer from energy poverty.  Illedits' opinion proposes setting an EU-wide definition of energy poverty. He argues that structural funding must go further to promote renewable energy and energy prices must also be capped to make them more competitive with the objective of reducing fossil fuels. The EU, he argues, must concentrate supporting those regional economies who are facing the most challenges from rising energy prices. The opinion was requested by the Greek Presidency of the EU and will contribute to the follow-up of the Third Energy Package and prepare for the Council meeting in May later this year.

Time to end energy state aid for fossil fuels

During the ENVE Commission Gusty Graas (LU/ALDE) was joined by Mr Claude Turmes, MEP as he presented his opinion on state aid for energy. ENVE members agreed that given the significant changes in technology for gas and renewable energy growing within the EU, state aid rules for energy needed to be reviewed. Mr Graas, Member of Bettembourg municipal council, argued that as climate and energy policy was so closely intertwined, aid must concentrate on boosting the renewable energy sector as part of the drive to combat climate change including a ban of using funds to subsidise fossil fuels. The opinion rejects the European Commission's proposal to replace current rules that ensure green energy producers receive a fixed price per kWh, with feed-in premiums. It also questions limits of 1 MW of alternative energy and 5MW to allow state aid to be received as they will threaten cooperative efforts. It will be presented for adoption at the CoRs' plenary in April.

Ban free plastic bags by 2020

Cllr Linda Gilham (UK/EA) from Runneymede Council also had her draft opinion on plastic bags adopted. She argues that the Commission proposals lack any serious ambition and should implement binding rather than voluntary EU level reduction/prevention targets and introduce an outright ban of free lightweight bags by 2020 in the retail sector. It should also be mandatory, she argue, to introduce charges for thicker multi-use plastic bags. Her opinion proposes setting an EU-wide target of 35 bags consumed per capita per year to be achieved by 2020 which would ensure an 80% reduction.

Also on the ENVE agenda

Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, presented the "Let's Clean up Europe!" initiative to be held on 10 May and engaged in debate about the EU's policy agenda for the circular economy, resource efficiency and waste policy.

Daiva Matoniene (LT/ECR) presented her initial draft of on "The 7th Environment Action Programme: sustainable cities" as did Kadri Tillemann (EE/EPP) who is producing a an opinon on "EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and the Aichi targets". Both opinions will be brought for adoption at the next ENVE Commission meeting on 24 April.