Energy Policy in Spain: news items

3 Apr

In the last month, several newspapers have reported some very interesting changes in Spain´s energy policy that require further comment and analysis

1. Carbon tax? Now?

A couple of days ago, El Pais published an article on the possibility of creating a carbon tax aimed to finance the extra cost of renewables. This new tax would apply only to household heating and transportation, since big carbon producers are already paying for their emissions through the ETS (Emission Trading System). El País also states that the purpose of this new tax would be to include these two sectors (heating and transportation) in the Government´s efforts to reduce carbon emissions, in compliance to the EU´s binding emission goals.

Let´s explore this for a moment and clarify the concept of carbon tax. A carbon tax has been considered the alternative to a cap and trade system in European Energy Policy in the last decade. However, several EU countries and utilities have strongly advocated against it. However, countries like Finland, Sweden or the UK have succesfully implemented different kinds of carbon taxes (See, for example, the UK´s Climate Change Levy). The main purpose of these taxes has been to show the real price of fossil fuels by adding to their price what has been called the social cost of carbon, which is the estimate value of the environmental externalities caused by burning fossil fuel and thus emitting carbon. Because of this, implementing a carbon tax has been considered an efficient way of discouraging energy consumption and fossil fuel burning.

Should a carbon tax be implemented in Spain? We will address this in our next post.

2. Wind Energy in Spain

The second news item I´d like to talk about is how a renewable energy source is becoming increasingly important in the last few years in Spain: wind energy. Electricity generated from wind turbines was the main energy source in Spain in March, El Pais reported. Wind energy covered 21% of Spain´s energy demand, generating 4.738 gigawatts per hour. This is a very encouraging data that shows how Spain´s investment on renewables is worth. We will develop further this issue in forthcoming posts.

Shaping European Energy Policy: The role of non profits

28 Feb

1. Relevance of energy related non profits in Europe

2. Energy and climate issues of most concern in Europe

2.1. The EU ETS and its Phase III

2.2. Energy efficiency

2.2.1. Scattered regulatory framework

2.2.2. Lessons to be learned from the US model

2.2.3. The “Concession Model”

2.2.4. The potential of the East

3. What could energy related non profits do?

3.1. Phase III of the ETS

3.1.1. Ensuring compliance at the national and European level

3.1.2. Helping national officials with monitoring and NAP´s elaboration

3.2. Energy efficiency

3.2.1. Policy advice and coordination

3.2.2. Public counseling

1. Relevance of  energy related non profits in Europe

The European Union is facing several challenges that directly impact to its energy policy: the incorporation of the Eastern European States; its loss of relevance in the international climate scenario; and the reforms to the political and legal structure introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. All these issues make clear that non profits devoted to assist governments in energy policy can be very important in how the European Union overcomes these difficulties.

2. Energy and climate issues of most concern in Europe

2.1.The EU ETS and its Phase III

Since the European Union has undertaken the task of establishing a multi-country emissions trade system for carbon dioxide, several studies have been conducted about either the success or failure of the program. However, the amendments to the ETS Directive approved by both the European Commission and the European Parliament in 2009 have created a new opportunity for the EU to demonstrate its commitment to the fight against climate change.

The new Phase III of the EU ETS will start in 2013 and will be based on the auctioning of allowances. Thus, the time has come to ensure that, before Phase III starts, all the Member States are prepared to:

-          Comply with its requirements

-          Assess correctly the amount of emissions in order to avoid over-allocation

-          Correctly monitor compliance with the system

-          Avoid excessive administrative costs

-          Organize auctioning in an efficient way. Even though this is not the policy of the current European Commissioner for the Environment, funding provided by these auctions should be used to improve energy efficiency programs and to create a system of energy efficiency credits.

2.2.Energy efficiency

2.2.1. Scattered regulatory framework

One of the most important concerns of Europe´s energy policy is the lack of a coherent and single efficiency policy. Each Member State has its own policy, and the EU only provides funds for individual projects. Even though some legislative action has been undertaken, it has only established a series of principles the Member States must apply, especially in the field of building codes.

2.2.2. Lessons to be learned from the US model

In the field of energy efficiency, the United States is a model to be imitated. Since Amory Lovins´ first articles about energy efficiency, a substantial part of the US has encouraged efficiency in both senses of end-use efficiency and utility efficiency. The state of Vermont (among others, like Oregon and California) has undertaken a strong commitment to energy efficiency, developing a program for an “energy efficiency utility”, Efficiency Vermont, in charge of implementing efficiency programs and helping customers.

2.2.3. The “Concession Model”

A similar model could be adopted in Europe. Administrative law in Europe has created the legal figure of the concession for the cases when an activity is considered a public service. In the concessional scheme, the government concedes the activity to a private entity but sets very strict terms of service. This traditional method of ensuring the State fulfills its duties to provide public services can be used to encourage efficiency.

The model would work as follows: Each State would have to declare energy efficiency as a “public service”. Once that is done, the service of providing energy efficiency programs and measures would be conceded to a private entity like Efficiency Vermont. Thus, the advantages of the Vermont model could be adapted to the Civil Law tradition and exported to Europe.

2.2.4. The potential of the East

The last of the issues that have to be taken into account in the efficiency field is the enormous potential of the Eastern European countries. Their recent incorporation into the European Union presented a challenge, but it can be also considered an opportunity. Most of these countries lack serious efficiency programs. Because of this, there is a huge opportunity for improvement.

3. What could energy related non profits do?

3.1. Phase III of the ETS

3.1.1. Ensuring compliance at the national and European level

One of the most important tasks non profits may undertake is helping national officials to adapt their systems and institutions to Phase III. Since one of the most criticized issues of the ETS has been the huge administrative costs it has caused national governments, these non profits can be helpful in the process of rationalizing compliance with Phase III of the ETS. Organizing workshops and seminars for national officials in order to inform them about Phase III could be really useful.

3.1.2. Helping national officials with monitoring and NAP´s elaboration

The second most criticized issue of the first two phases of the ETS is the issue of over allocation of allowances caused by the erroneous assessment conducted by the Member States on their own emissions. Because of this, research, analysis and educational help could be provided by energy related non profits to both national and European officials to avoid this problem in the NAP elaboration process.

3.2. Energy efficiency

3.2.1. Policy advice and coordination

As we have already seen, there is a great potential for energy efficiency in Europe. Non profits´ role could be to act as advisors to both the EU and the national governments in this field, proposing the adoption of the “Concessional Model” at the national level, and the creation of a coordinated regulatory framework at the European level.

3.2.2. Public counseling

In this field, energy related non profits could constitute an ideal public advocate for energy efficiency, especially in Eastern Europe. The provided expertise in the field of energy efficiency may greatly facilitate public and governmental awareness of the need for a more efficient use of energy in Europe.

Welcome to Energy Law Today

28 Feb

Welcome to this new site: Energy Law Today

Energy Law Today is a site aimed to provide useful information, insights and analysis in the field of comparative energy law. Since our world is facing more and more pressing energy related problems, it is important to know how the different legal systems are addressing these problems. The better we know how are other parts of the world dealing with the same problems we have, the better we will understand these problems.

In most of the articles that will be posted, a comparison between the European Union and the United States will be drawn. Both the EU and the US are today main players of the energy policy game. However, emerging countries won´t  be disregarded. The growing role these countries are playing in the international energy scene gives us the possibility to add a third term to our comparison.

As you may see, Energy Law Today has four sections:

-The main one, which will be devoted to articles, analysis and research in comparative energy law.

-Energy Law Materials, where links to relevant laws, statutes, regulations and cases will be posted.

-About Energy Law Today, where you can learn more about the author of the website

-Contact Energy Law Today: If you want to collaborate with Energy Law Today or just want to contact the autor, please use the form included in this section.

So, welcome to the exciting world of comparative energy law!

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