Legal Aspects of the Promotion of Renewable Energy within the EU and in Relation to the EU’s Obligations in the WTO
Renewable Energy Law and Policy Review, Issue 1/2014, pp.3-25
23 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2014 Last revised: 12 Oct 2014
Date Written: August 19, 2014
Both energy and the European Union (EU), albeit for different reasons inherent to them, are complex affairs. EU renewable energy policy encompasses several practices, ranging from EU Member State obligations to increase the overall share of renewables in their energy mix, to the obligation to prioritize electricity from renewable sources in the grid infrastructure, the obligation to increase the share of biofuels in transport sector energy demand, the requirement that emitting industries purchase emission credits through the EU Emissions Trading System, the obligation to use energy more efficiently, and, to sum up, obligations to promote renewables both at the intra-EU and extra-EU levels. The EU’s renewable energy policy is further conditioned by the EU and its Member States’ obligations owed to third-party states and organizations (for instance, relating to trade, investment, and environmental protection).
EU renewable energy policy is not only framed by the normative context at the intra-EU level, but also by a broader normative context, comprising other instances of international law. EU renewable energy policy must not only never involve any arbitrary and unjustifiable encroachment on EU Member State sovereign prerogatives, but it must also be in line with the EU and Member States’ obligations to the outside world. At the juncture between EU renewable energy policy and World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, a number of issues have trade-restrictive effects, which may be justified under environmental protection objectives, including the propagation of renewable energy. Striking the balance between multiple objectives is key for a functional multilateral system. In recent years, the WTO system has evolved to better accommodate environmental protection objectives. However, questions remain around unilateral measures that do not necessarily flow from international practice or from international standards, as well as the differential treatment between tradables, depending on their process and production methods.
Keywords: EU renewable energy; WTO; renewable energy; EU emissions trading system; subsidies; State aid
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