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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 February 2007, 16:19 GMT
EU ministers agree biofuel target
power station
Ministers are split on a plan to take grids away from energy producers
EU energy ministers have agreed to increase the share of biofuels used in transport to 10% by 2020.

But at a meeting in Brussels they were unable to decide whether a target of getting 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 should be binding.

They also differed over a proposal to split energy utilities into separate production and distribution companies.

The question of whether the renewables target should be mandatory will be decided by EU leaders next month.

All the proposals discussed by the ministers were part of a package of measures put forward by the European Commission in January to tackle climate change and improve Europe's security of energy supply while maintaining the EU economy's competitiveness.

'Unbundling' divide

Next week environment ministers will discuss the commission's headline proposal of a unilateral 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 - or a 30% reduction if agreement can be reached between all developed countries.

It is shameful that their energy ministers seem to be already abandoning ambition on crucial concrete measures to protect our climate
Green MEPs Claude Turmes and Rebecca Harms

The energy ministers did not approve the mechanisms proposed by the commission for "unbundling" energy supply from distribution.

They agreed only to the principle of "effective separation of supply and production activities from network operations (unbundling), based on independently run and adequately regulated network operation systems".

France is among a number of countries opposing the plan to free up access to energy distribution networks, by loosening the control of Europe's big energy production companies such as Germany's E.ON and RWE and France's EDF.

Belgium, Britain, Denmark and Sweden supported ownership separation, while France, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic opposed it, Reuters quoted an unnamed EU official as saying.

Burden sharing

Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the ministers had broadly backed the goal of getting 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020, but wanted more information about how the burden would be shared between the 27 member states.

"After all the bluster from EU leaders on climate change over the past few months, it is shameful that their energy ministers seem to be already abandoning ambition on crucial concrete measures to protect our climate," said Green MEPs Claude Turmes and Rebecca Harms.

The energy package will be the main subject of an EU summit in Brussels on 8 and 9 March.


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