Wednesday’s big vote on the Commission’s Clean Energy Package has drawn ire from GUE/NGL MEPs with complaints that the final texts put before them had been watered down by the bigger political groups.

Prior to this plenary session, there had been fears that the Energy Union would be taken off the agenda by the EPP (centre right) – and with it, the entire Clean Energy Package including renewables and energy efficiency.

But even though the files survived, GUE/NGL shadows were displeased with the final versions put before them after months of arduous compromises and debates at committee level.  Texts were diluted, binding targets lowered and in the file on Renewables, provisions on how community energy can reduce energy poverty was removed from the vote.

For the Renewables report, GUE/NGL MEP Paloma López chose to abstain as the text excluded provisions for binding national targets in the final text:

“We have abstained on the Renewables vote because even though it is an improvement on the Commission’s original proposal, it does not include binding national targets – a key matter that we believe could jeopardise the Paris climate change agreements.”

“Without these binding targets, it is going to be very difficult to even reach the 35% global target set by the Parliament in its proposal. We doubt that member states will find an agreement within the Council. This – coupled with the Commission’s lack of ambition – could lead us to a situation where, as before, the EU only reaches that ceiling due to the commitment by certain member states whilst others refused to comply without suffering any of the consequences,” said the Spanish MEP.

For the Energy Efficiency file, MEPs voted to increase the EU’s energy efficiency target to a minimum of 35 percent by the year 2030 – lower than the 40% binding target set by the Committee on Industries Research and Energy (ITRE) but higher than the 27-30% proposed by the Commission.

It is said that for every 1% extra in energy savings by the year 2030, EU gas imports will fall by 4%, and greenhouse gas emissions lowered by 0.7% with an extra 336,000 jobs created.

Reacting to the vote, GUE/NGL MEP Xabier Benito said:

“We regret that with this Clean Energy Package, the EU stops in midstream. It includes positive points but much more can be done. The EPP tried repeatedly to reduce and weaken the objectives and unfortunately, the socialists (S&D) and liberals (ALDE) accepted them rather than finding alternative majorities. It truly is a lost opportunity for combating climate change.”

“For the Energy Efficiency Directive, the target for 2030 has been reduced from 40% to 35% and without the national binding target as had been approved at the committee level, it's a step backwards,” he continued.

“Ambitious and binding energy efficiency targets would benefit European citizens as it means less energy consumption for heating and cooling, more energy security and job creations. We also proposed that half of the efficiency measures have to be dedicated to the household in situation of energy poverty. All of these would help to put the EU on the correct path in achieving its commitments to the Paris agreement,” concluded Benito.

On the governance report, 466 MEPs voted in favour of the Commission proposals for the Energy Union which includes the liberalisation of the European energy internal market and too little on tackling energy poverty. Portuguese MEP João Ferreira was particularly critical of the regulation:

“The consequences of the liberalised internal market for energy will be just like others: the monopolist concentration of the sector at European level, benefitting energy oligopolies (be it fossil fuel or renewables-based) and harming consumers – especially the more vulnerable ones.”

“There are concerns that this regulation would lead to shift of powers from national level to the Commission and relevant EU agencies. Several national parliaments raised the issue of the disregard of the principle of subsidiarity,” he continued.

“We tabled more than 50 amendments – some of them proposing a stronger approach to combat energy poverty and in environmental issues by increasing the ambitions.”

“For us, energy should be considered a public good. Therefore, public and democratic control over the energy sector is a fundamental requisite in order to assure a more sustainable, green, social and fair energy sector,” Ferreira said.

From an environmental and social perspective, Czech MEP Kateřina Konečná has also voiced her displeasure from today’s proceedings:

“I am hugely disappointed by the result of today’s plenary vote. This is especially true regarding the Renewables file where the European Parliament bowed to the lobbyists and pressure from the industry.”

“Crucially, the question over energy poverty has been ignored by the majority of MEPs. We have therefore wasted a massive opportunity in making these files the beacon of change.”

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