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European added value to member states’ first steps on the path towards 2050

June 26th, 2011 by Leonardo Meeus, Florence School of Regulation

Several EU member states are already taking their first steps on the path towards 2050. The Danish, German, and Irish governments have explored the policy options but the resulting strategies have not yet been legislated. In Finland, France, and the UK, a legal commitment has already been reached. The UK is the only member state that has reached the implementation stage of its legally binding 2050 strategy.

These emerging 2050 low carbon energy strategies bring new risks of policy fragmentation, but also open new opportunities for cooperation among member states and European added value. An example of possible policy fragmentation is the decision of the UK government to introduce a national carbon price floor for electricity generation from 2013 onwards. Another example is the possible introduction of purely national “generation capacity” mechanisms to address locally the security of electricity supply concerns in France and in the UK. However, an example of new opportunities for cooperation among member states is the apparent will of pioneering member states, such as UK or Germany, to further integrate their electricity transmission grid to enable their low-carbon energy strategies.

We have to distinguish three different types of possible EU involvement to derive beneficial EU actions in the 2050 context.

• First type of EU involvement: (“effort sharing” by setting binding targets for member state action). It can create EU added value when there is a common European interest that will not be pursued or that will be achieved too slowly/costly if not all member states contribute.

• Second type of EU involvement: (“harmonization” by framing the choice of measures taken by member states). It can create EU added value when there is policy fragmentation and this situation is costly due to incoherence.

• Third type of EU involvement: (“level playing field” by creating an EU-wide instrument). It can create EU added value when a single approach is beneficial, and there is strong enough agreement among member states on what this most appropriate instrument is.

The potential value added created by the different types of EU involvement greatly differs in each policy area so that a case-by-case approach needs to be followed. In some areas, a combination of all the three types of EU involvement can be promising, while in other policy areas it seems more appropriate to focus on a single type of EU involvement. The only rationale criterion is the actual value added to reach the 2050 targets.

By applying this approach to the key 2050 policy challenges, we derive the following 10 recommendations for the DG Energy 2050 roadmap that will come out later this year, 2011, as a follow up of the recently released DG Climate roadmap (which sets the scene for EU level 2050 policy action):

Leonardo Meeus, Isabel Azevedo, Claudio Marcantonini, Jean-Michel Glachant, Florence School of Regulation (European University Institute) and Manfred Hafner (FEEM)
Note: This post is derived from THINK report (funded by EU’s 7th framework programme).

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