EU Council emphasizes right of solar self-consumption under new climate target strategy

On December 18, the European Council defined its negotiating strategy with the EU Parliament and Commission for the so-called Winter Package.

Under the package, the EU aims to implement its 2030 climate and energy policy. The Council endorsed, among other things, the proposals of the package for solar self-consumption and those for green electricity cooperatives.

Their rights and obligations, the Council said in a press release, are “now clearly defined.” In the future, prosumers and small-scale installations should also benefit, inter alia, from simplified notification procedures.

The EU wants to set its future climate and energy policy with the winter package that the EU Commission has prepared. The Energy Council brings together energy ministers from all member states, in order to find a balance and reflect different interests within the EU.

A group of countries, including France, Italy and Germany, called for more ambitious renewable targets, and should be strong allies to increase the EU’s goals through the next steps of the negotiations, said Aurélie Beauvais, Policy Director at the European solar association SolarPower Europe.

The renewable goals, which aim for a 27% share of renewables by 2030, are not particularly ambitious, compared to the targets set for 2020. The above-mentioned group of countries is seeking to provide the Commission with more control mechanisms and provide better clarity for investotrs.

After yesterday’s meeting, milestones are now set not only for 2023 (24%) and 2025 (40%), but also for 2027 (60%) on national RES development trajectories. However, the Council has rejected the proposals to give the Commission the faculty to make quantitative recommendations to individual member states, if they fail to achieve their targets.

Carsten Pfeiffer, Head of Policy and Strategy at the German renewable energy association Bundesverband Erneuerbare Energie (BDEW), had already previously criticized this, in a conversation with pv magazine, claiming these are low renewables targets. “There is little pressure on the member states,” said Pfeiffer.

Another aspect, in which the group, formed by Germany, France and Italy has partially prevailed, is relevant for the solar industry. The winter package allows, in fact, member states to finance power plants through a capacity mechanism.

The Council has accepted that, starting from 2025, new installations should only be eligible for the capacity mechanism if their emissions are less than 550 grams of CO2 per kWh, or less than 700 kilograms of CO2 per kW per year.

It even accepted, that from 2030 on, these limits will also apply to existing power plants. Coal-fired power plants without co-generation exceed this limit by far. This is expected to make it difficult to operate coal-fired power plants, although at a relatively late stage, and to help the energy transition and the expansion of solar power.

“What seemed impossible only 12 months ago edges closer to reality – a carbon criteria for capacity mechanisms,” said Aurélie Beauvais.

Although the draft approved by the Council is weaker than that proposed by the Commission, “we will work to make sure that the Commission’s original draft remains is the benchmark for any agreement.”

The BDEW made it immediately clear that it stands on the other side. The fact that even modern coal-fired power stations are excluded from the capacity market “would be a clear violation of the principle of technology neutrality, which must be applied in a capacity market”.

Its goal was to exclusively guarantee the security of power supply. “The CO2 reduction must be reserved for other mechanisms, in particular for the emissions trading system (EU ETS).”

For Germany, the dispute on the electricity price zones is also relevant. Today a uniform price zone applies to electricity trading throughout Germany.

Other EU countries complain that there are not enough lines available from North to South Germany and, therefore, electricity is transported via neighboring countries. This could be better regulated by the addition of more lines, or by creating two separate price zones in Germany.

Several other topics were discussed, such as flexible electricity prices, the role of smart meters and basic conditions for battery storage. The storage industry should be pleased with the approach that the Council is also in favor of allowing distribution system operators and transmission system operators in future to operate energy storage under certain circumstances.

Overall, Solar Power Europe draws a positive balance. The Council has recognized that electricity markets need to become more open, transparent and flexible. According to Solar Power Europe this is a decisive step towards a future electricity market design that integrates more renewable energies and decentralized energy solutions.

“We are very pleased to see that the Council has recognised the importance of the right to self-generate electricity,” said Solarpower Europe CEO James Watson to pv magazine. “This will mean that we can take a major step towards putting consumers at the heart of the energy transition as imagined by the Commission.”

This was reinforced by the maintenance of provisions to stop disproportionate charges being placed on self-generators

The winter package is part of the Clean Energy Package for achieving EU climate and energy goals. The member states will in future submit their energy and climate plans with their goals and measures, initially for the years 2021 to 2030.

The plans will be then renewed every 10 years. In order to reach a share of renewable energies of 27% by 2030, member states and the EU should reach certain milestones along the way. The member states should present an energy and climate progress report every two years.

The European Commission presented the Clean Energy Package in November 2016. Committees of the European Parliament adopted the report on December 7, 2017. It will be put to the vote during Parliament’s plenary session in January 2018.