Introduction

In the early hours of 20 June 2018, representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council, reached an agreement on a key piece of legislation that will shape the direction of the EU’s energy and climate policy to 2050: the Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union. Note 1.

The Governance Regulation is the keystone of the Energy Union project, one of the Juncker Commission’s ten priorities for its 2015-19 term. Note 2.  In a 2015 Communication, the Commission set out its vision of the energy union as an overarching framework that combines and harmonises energy and climate policy.  Note 3.

The Governance Regulation is designed to unite the European Union’s energy and climate policy under a single governance mechanism, with the Commission responsible for supervision and, if need be, enforcement.  It will do so by requiring Member States to produce Integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) every ten years, setting out national energy and climate targets and policies. These plans will be used to make sure that the Union as a whole remains on track to deliver its overarching climate and energy targets (table 1).

Table 1: EU-Level Climate and Energy Targets to 2030

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions (compared to 1990 levels): 40

Share of Renewable Energy in Gross Final Energy Consumption:   32%

Energy Efficiency:   32.5%

Interconnection Target:   15%

Member States have to submit draft NECPs for the period 2021-2030 to the European Commission by 31 December 2018. The Commission will evaluate all NECPs in light of overarching Union-level energy and climate targets and revert to Member States with recommendations. Final NECPs must be submitted to the Commission by the end of 2019.

This policy brief argues that compiling Ireland’s draft NECP will be a challenge given the short timeframe, but also an opportunity to conduct a “stock-take” of existing national policy. It is also an opportunity to combine the significant progress made over the past year into a coherent and ambitious energy and climate strategy and to “lock-in” this strategy at European level. Finally, if approached in an open and consultative fashion, it could foster further ownership and public engagement with Ireland’s decarbonisation strategy.

This policy brief recommends that three processes should be undertaken in parallel: consolidation of existing policy; ensuring coherence and sufficient ambition of national policy; and consultation of the public to “fill the gaps” and to foster ownership of and public engagement with Ireland’s NECP.

Executive Summary

Ireland is falling behind on meeting its decarbonisation and renewable targets for 2020, and Government has acknowledged that a new approach and vision will be required in the years ahead. Under European law, Ireland must produce a Draft Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) by the end of 2018 in any case, and this plan must set out detailed policy measures to realise targets across five dimensions of the EU’s Energy Union Flagship Project.

This policy brief argues that this requirement under EU law provides an opportunity to revisit Ireland’s energy and climate policy, and identifies three important steps to producing an NECP:

1. Stock-taking: Existing energy and climate policy must be consolidated from a range of policy documents relevant to the five dimensions of energy and climate policy proposed by the European Commission. Relevant measures are mainly contained in the National Mitigation Plan (NMP) and the National Development Plan 2018-2027 (NDP).

2. Coherence and ambition: European law requires Ireland’s NECP to be coherent, not just in itself but also with overarching EU climate and energy objectives. To achieve this, in the area of decarbonisation, a very significant challenge will be ensuring that the consolidated policies are sufficiently ambitious to meet 2030 objectives, which have already been agreed at EU level. However, in the areas of energy efficiency and renewables, new targets will need to be defined first of all, and policies must then be aligned and sufficiently ambitious to meet these newly enumerated targets. This process will be complicated by the tight timelines and the uncertain backdrop created by Brexit.

3. Consultation: This is a complex process with potentially profound implications for Ireland’s future social and economic development. It is therefore suggested that this stock-take and concretisation of existing policy should go hand-in-hand with public consultations to “fill the gaps” and to foster ownership of Ireland’s NECP.

This policy brief demonstrates that there are considerable gaps left to be filled in order to bring Irish policy in line with the new EU vision for energy and climate policy, but also that there is a substantial base of policy and process to build upon.

Notes

1 Hereafter referred to as “Governance Regulation”; the final compromise text can be accessed here: data.consilium.europa. eu/doc/document/ST-10307-2018-ADD-2/en/pdf

2 European Commission, “Energy Union and Climate: Making Energy More Secure, Affordable and Sustainable”, ec.europa.eu/commission/priorities/energy-union-and-climate_en

3 European Commission, A Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy, COM(2015) 80 final, eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:1bd46c90-bdd4-11e4-bbe1-01aa75ed71a1.0001.03/DOC_1&format=PDF; for further background on the genesis of the Energy Union, see also Marie Vandendriessche, “The Road to the Energy Union” (Florence School of Regulation, 11 December 2017), fsr.eui.eu/road-energy-union/

 

This Commentary is the “Introduction” and “Executive Summary” of a longer report by Max Muenchmeyer, Ireland’s Energy And Climate Plan: Consolidation, Cohesion, Consultation, published by The Institute of International and European Affairs in October 2018.  The entire report can be accessed at  www.iiea.com/publication/irelands-energy-and-climate-plan-consolidation-cohesion-consultation/

The author, Max Muenchmeyer, is responsible for the Institute’s Energy and Germany working groups. A native of Düsseldorf, Germany, he holds an LLB degree in law and political science from Trinity College Dublin. He also holds an LLM degree in European Union law from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Prior to joining the IIEA, Max worked at the Secretariat of the World Energy Council in London.

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