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A leaked European Commission paper concerned with the European Union’s energy union shows a preference for capacity mechanisms which will benefit coal-fired power plants within the bloc.

The overhaul of the EU electricity market, according to the document, should target ending national public support for renewables, while encouraging governments to pay energy companies in other member states for idle power stations.

Supporters of the capacity market model claim it can prevent blackouts, enabling the surplus capacity to be brought online in case of a shortage or to cover consumption at peak time.
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The paper says that environmentally-harmful subsidies will be phased out altogether, but critics say that paying for surplus, unused power is a public subsidy for high-carbon industries, and will entrench polluting plants for decades.

Euractiv reports that the Energy Union will enable energy to be shared more effectively across the EU, so that a surplus in one country could be used where there is a shortage, be it because of an unreliable supplier or any other reason.

The transformation is heavily motivated by a desire by the bloc to improve its energy security, particularly in the wake of difficulties associated with Russian gas supply.

“Uncoordinated national policies” on capacity and renewables will be tackled by ambitious legislation, the paper stated, adding that the vision is of the Energy Union as “a sustainable, low carbon and environment-friendly economy.”

Brian Ricketts, the Secretary General of the European Association for Coal and Lignite, told EurActiv capacity mechanisms were a rational response to the increase in subsidised, must-run renewables and, if properly designed, should not be considered state aid.

“Fossil generation secures electricity supply when there is no wind or sun. Only if all options to provide reliable capacity are eligible – from new as well as from existing plants, from coal as well as from gas – will consumers get the best deal on security,” he said.

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