A Brexit deal between the EU and UK lays the ground for “ambitious” co-operation over renewable energy and climate action, according to early clues to the substance of one of the most nerve-racking international trade treaties in recent history.
The European Commission and UK government announced the deal mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve, just days ahead of the 31 December lapse of Britain’s transition phase out of Brussels’ legislation and averting predictions of chaos if no agreement was reached.
Although the full 1,500-page text of the agreement was not immediately available, a brochure issued by the EU side contains a summary of its assessment of the outcome.
The EU Commission document says the new EU-UK Agreement includes guarantees on security of energy supply and “will facilitate continued flows of energy – essential to the functioning of both economies – by putting in place new trading arrangements over interconnectors.
“It also establishes an ambitious framework for cooperation on renewable energy and tackling climate change.”
According to the document a provision would trigger the suspension of the deal if either side breached its commitment to the Paris climate agreement.
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen singled out the issues during her speech announcing the conclusion of the deal. “We will continue to co-operate with the UK in all areas of mutual interest, for example in the fields of climate change [and] energy.”
The apparent harmony over energy reflects the broadly similar agendas of the UK and EU on climate and renewables, and their common interest in developing the North Sea as one of the world’s key centres for offshore wind and other energy transition technologies.
One of the early casualties of Brexit was the UK’s place in the EU-run North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) group, raising fears that work between the two would suffer.
But the EU’s summary says agreement has been reached on “offshore energy cooperation in the North Sea”, suggesting a new arrangement is now in place.
The UK has already announced its own emissions trading scheme (ETS) to replace the EU version from 1 January.
Like almost every other lobbying group in the UK economy, renewables body RenewableUK welcomed the deal.
'Certainty and stability'
Director of strategic communications Luke Clark said: "We welcome the announcement of a Brexit deal as we hope it will provide certainty for investors and stability for hundreds of companies developing and operating vital renewable energy projects throughout the UK.
“We'll need to study the text of the agreement in detail and there are several key points we'll be looking out for, but the agreement of a free trade deal on goods will help the British manufacturers exporting renewable technology to EU countries.”
RenewableUK added: “It's important that our future arrangements with the EU’s energy market allow us to trade power in a way that maximises the benefits of the interconnection with EU countries, so we can export our surplus power and import flexibly to support our energy system when necessary.”