When the new European Commission took over in November 2014, energy policy
became one of the central issues on the EU's agenda. The creation of the
position of a 'Vice-President for the Energy Union' in the European Commission
shows that energy ranks among the top concerns for European officials.
In December 2015 the international climate negotiations will take
place in Paris and the attempts by the big polluters/corporate lobbyists to
capture the talks are well under way. The Business & Climate Summit, taking
place on 20 and 21 May in Paris, is one of the attempts of corporate lobby
groups to influence the agenda of the climate negotiations.
While large energy companies are quick to spend heavily on lavish
conferences, they are much less forthcoming when it comes to transparency of
their lobby activities. This article looks at some of the most important energy
companies lobbying the EU and tracks their disclosures in the EU's voluntary
lobby transparency register in 2013 and 2014. The snapshot from the old
register entries provided
by LobbyFacts and the new data in the updated transparency register makes this
The cases presented here are examples of implausible or misleading
information energy companies have disclosed in relation to their lobby
activities. The high number of problematic entries in the register highlights
the need for a mandatory lobby register, as well as much stronger checks on the
accuracy of information in the register.
Lobby expenditure suddenly multiplying
Some companies have declared significant increases in EU lobbying
expenditure between 2013 and 2014.
The multi-national power company ENEL has shown the
steepest increase of lobbying expenditure in the energy sector. According to
its entry, EU lobbying expenditure climbed up from ˆ450,000-500,000 in 2013 to
ˆ2,000,000-2,249,999 in 2014 – more than a four-fold increase. The number of
staff working on EU lobbying has also increased from 7 to 24 people for the
same period. At least the change in lobby costs seems quite dubious. While ENEL
declares to have paid ˆ400,000 in 2014 for membership fees in a range of trade
associations it was already member in most of them in 2013. Unless their membership
fees have increased drastically, the 2013 entry is therefore likely to
represent an instance of under-reporting.
Oil multinational BP's declared lobby expenditure
has almost doubled. It rose from ˆ1,250,000-1,500,000 in 2013 to
ˆ2,500,000-2,999,999 in 2014, despite no addition to the five lobbyists
employed. No reason for this significant increase could be found: The amount
spent on lobby consultancies declared in the register has remained roughly the
same and BP's membership in trade associations even decreased in the time
Significant decreases in EU lobbying expenditures
Yet, surprisingly, in comparison to the importance energy issues
have gained, many other companies have posted huge decreases in their lobbying
expenditures. The difference between some of the 2013 and 2014 figures is so
large that it makes some of the data reported appear highly dubious.
The French gas and electricity company Engie
(formerly called GDF Suez) has declared the most outstanding
decrease of lobby expenditure from ˆ2,500,000-2,750,000 in 2013 to than less
than ˆ9,999 in 2014. The number of staff working in EU lobbying also fell from
12, including 2 accredited lobbyists, in 2013 to 4 in 2014, with no more staff
with EU parliament access. Yet, even if Engie has reduced the number lobbyists
it employs to 4, it is completely unrealistic that their salaries and
activities – at least 14 high-level meetings with the European Commission since
1 December 2014 – could be covered by a budget of less than ˆ10,000. Engie also
sponsors the Business & Climate Summit in Paris this week. (v)
Similarly, Swedish Vattenfall, Europe's fifth
largest electricity provider, declares lobby expenditure of less than ˆ10,000
in its updated register entry, despite employing 4 lobbyists and declaring 5
members of staff with access to the European Parliament. According to
Vattenfall's entry in the register, the lobby costs refer to 2010, which is
almost certainly a mistake since the entry was updated in May 2015. In January
2015, while declaring the same number of lobbyists, Vattenfall reported lobby
costs of ˆ250,000-300.000. (ii) Vattenfall is one of the main
sponsors of the corporate UN climate forum, which
takes place on 21 May in Paris.
Controversial UK fracking company Cuadrilla Resources
has stated their lobbying costs have decreased from ˆ50,000-100,000 in 2013 to
less than ˆ9,999 in 2014. The number of staff involved in lobbying fell from 70
in 2013 to 1 in 2014. Although it is very likely that Cuadrilla was
over-reporting the number of staff in 2013 – it does not seem realistic that 70
lobbyists could be paid from a budget of less than ˆ100,000. The newly posted
figures of less than ˆ10,000 spent on EU lobbying are, however, surprisingly
low, given the importance of energy issues and especially gas on the European
policy agenda. For example, Cuadrilla chairs one of the two working groups in
the newly created European Commission expert group on the development of shale
gas and is represented by a second person in the expert group. Friends of the
Earth Europe recently left the expert group, due to concerns about the dominance of pro-fracking members.
The Norwegian oil company Statoil also declared
that its lobbying costs went down significantly from ˆ800,000-900,000 in 2013
to ˆ50,000-99,999 in 2014. Interestingly, however, the number of staff involved
in lobbying has not changed between 2013 and 2014 (7 persons). The European
Commission reported 11 high-level meetings with Statoil lobbyists between
December 2014 and May 2015, something quite remarkable for a company claiming
to spend less than ˆ100,000 on lobbying. Statoil appears as a speaker at the Business & Climate Summit in Paris. (i)
Finnish electricity provider Fortum claims that its
lobby expenditure decreased more than 90% from ˆ250,000-300,000 in 2013 to
ˆ10,000-24,999 in 2014. However, the number of staff involved has barely
changed from 10 people in 2013 to 8 in 2014. With 4.5 staff working full time
on lobbying, the numbers declared by Fortum almost certainly indicate
Decreases in lobbying costs have also been published by the German
energy provider EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG. Lobby
costs supposedly dropped from ˆ1,200,000 in 2013 to ˆ990,000 in 2014. Yet the
number of staff involved has increased from 4 to 6 in the same period.
Incomplete financial data in the new register
Some companies provided only partial financial information for 2014.
For instance, the French energy provider Alstom and British
energy company SSE provided only information for the period
between April 2013 and March 2014.
Several large energy companies such as the French oil giant, Total,
and Endesa, Spain's largest utility company (owned by Italian Enel),
have not provided any financial data for 2014 as required by the transparency
register rules and report information from 2013. (iii)
Spanish energy provider Iberdrola has published
financial data from 2013. In its latest update in March 2015, the company
reported that lobby costs for 2013 were between ˆ500,000 and ˆ599,999, whereas
two months earlier it had declared expenses for the same period of
Newly registered companies
At the end of April, new energy companies have also joined the
register five years after it was launched. Their registration coincides with a
new policy of the European Commission to conduct high-level meetings only with
lobbyists listed in the register. They include the parent company of British Gas,
Centrica, which reported lobbying expenses of ˆ200,000-299,000
for 2014. Oil and gas service company Balltec who recently
registered has declared to have paid ˆ3,490,095 in 2014 for EU lobbying, with
40 people involved – almost certainly another case of over-reporting since
Balltec is a engineering and manufacturing company with fewer
than 50 employees and therefore highly unlikely to
employ 40 in-house lobbyists.
With the international climate negotiations in Paris approaching and
the discussions on the Energy Union in full swing, it is crucial to know who is
trying to influence the EU's climate and energy policy. Yet, the current
transparency register is riddled with inaccurate and implausible information
about the energy companies lobbying on these issues. At the same time, the same
companies are high-profile players in the international climate negotiations,
lobbying to shield corporate profits and thus undermining the climate talks.
The Alliance for Lobby
Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU), of
which Friends of the Earth Europe is a member, just launched a campaign for a mandatory, high-quality transparency register. Such a register would finally allow the public to know who is
influencing our energy future.
(i) Update 20.05.2015: After the publication of this article,
the Norwegian oil company Statoil changed its entry in the lobby register.
It now declares lobby expenditure of ˆ800,000-899,000, in line with its previous
declaration and a much more realistic figure given the level of its lobby
activity in Brussels.
(ii) Update 21.5.2015: A check of the lobby register today revealed
that Vattenfall has modified its entry and
now declares EU lobby costs of ˆ900,000-ˆ999,999 for 2014.
(iii) Udate 21.5.2015: Total has also updated its lobby register entry since the publication of this article and now reports
lobbying costs of ˆ2,500,000-ˆ2,749,000 for 2014 (it previously posted
only data for 2013).
(iv) Update 22.05.2015: Yesterday Fortum changed its entry in the register
and now declares ˆ400,000-ˆ499,999 of EU lobby expenses for 2014 instead
of ˆ10,000-24,999 as it previously stated.
(v) Update 28.05.15: Engie changed today their entry and
declare now ˆ2,250,000-2,499,999 of EU lobbying expenses for 2014 instead of
less than ˆ9,999 in 2014 as they previously stated. They also now declare that
3 of their 4 lobbysists have access to the EU Parliament.
* * *