Existing EU energy directives set to continue in UK law

The Great Repeal Bill, which will convert all existing European rules and regulations into UK legislation, will include new measures agreed during the two-year Brexit programme, set to begin this month.

This means that any changes agreed for products under the Eco Design Directive will continue in Britain, at least initially.

So also will any changes made to the two existing energy efficiency directives currently being renegotiated - provided that these alterations are agreed within the next year. The formal position for each directive is that, once agreed, each government has a maximum 12 months to begin legal implementation,

So, with full Brexit now assumed to occur during March 2019, if final agreement is not reached before April 2018, only the existing texts will become part of UK law – even if the new text is agreed during the interim period.

The two existing directives where changes are proposed are the Energy Performance of Buildings directive (EPBD) and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) (see EiBI Feb. 2017). Before these can be approved, their texts must be agreed both by the 28 national governments and by the European Parliament.

During 2017 Malta and then Estonia hold the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, representing the governments. Both have agreed a timetable of meetings that should ensure that agreement among the 28 national governments can be reached by November.

At the same time, the European Parliament is establishing an agreed position on both dossiers. Only after this also happens can any final decisions be made, via negotiations regarding text alterations between the Council of Ministers, the European Commission (which prepared the initial draft) and MEPs.

Last month a lead MEP was appointed for each directive, to carry out the formal “rapporteur” role. For the EPBD this is the experienced rightwing Dane, Bendt Bendtsen (above), who has a long-standing interest in energy efficiency. He has already developed a priority paper, and has adopted a critical path that should ensure agreement in the European Parliament well before the end of 2017.

However, to general surprise, the Socialist Group has appointed a Pole, Prof. Adam Gierek, to be the rapporteur for the EED. He is known to be very sympathetic towards the coal industry, and has previously voted against energy-saving initiatives.

The process is already behind schedule, and Prof. Gierek’s colleagues in the Socialist group have taken the unusual step of monitoring every statement he makes regarding this dossier, requiring him to obtain the group’s prior approval before considering any policy proposals. While Gierek is not from the party now running the Polish government, fears have been expressed regarding his adoption of the same minimalist line regarding the setting of any binding energy-saving targets for 2030, a key new component of the new EED.

The UK government has stated its desire to be “fully involved” in the process. While this may be possible in the inter-governmental meetings, it is clear that, unlike before, no UK MEP is being permitted to play a leading role in any of the party groups, regarding any of the six energy directives under consideration. As one German MEP commented: “If the Brits have decided to leave the house, why should they be permitted to spoil the party for everybody else?”

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