EU agrees on further renewable energy development


Solar panels on the roof of the Czech National Theatre building in Prague, Czech Republic, May 25, 2018.

New regulatory framework includes a binding renewable energy target for the EU for 2030 of 32%

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Negotiators from the European Commission, the Parliament and the Council reached a late on June 14 for an ambitious political agreement on increasing renewable energy use in Europe.

“Renewables are good for Europe, and today, Europe is good at renewables,” Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said. “This deal is a hard-won victory in our efforts to unlock the true potential of Europe’s clean energy transition,” he said, adding that this new ambition will help the EU meet its Paris Agreement goals and will translate into more jobs, lower energy bills for consumers and fewer energy imports.

“I am particularly pleased with the new European target of 32%. The binding nature of the target will also provide additional certainty to the investors. I now call on the European Parliament and the Council to continue negotiating with the same commitment and complete the rest of the proposals of the Clean Energy for All Europeans Package. This will put us on the right path towards the Long-Term Strategy that the Commission intends to present by the end of this year,” Cañete said.

According to the European Commission, the deal reached on June 14 means that two out of the eight legislative proposals in the Clean Energy for All Europeans package, which was adopted by the European Commission on November 30, 2016, have been already agreed by the co-legislators.

On May 14, the first element of the package, the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive, was adopted. Thus, progress and momentum towards completing the Energy Union is well under way and the work started by the Commission of President Jean-Claude Juncker, under the priority “a resilient Energy Union and a forward-looking climate change policy” is delivering its promises, the Commission said.

The new regulatory framework includes a binding renewable energy target for the EU for 2030 of 32% with an upward revision clause by 2023. This will greatly contribute to the Commission’s political priority as expressed by Juncker in 2014 for the European Union to become the world number one in renewables, the Commission said. This will allow Europe to keep its leadership role in the fight against climate change, in the clean energy transition and in meeting the goals set by the Paris Agreement.

Accelerating investment

The new rules that came out of the June 14 agreement serve also to create an enabling environment to accelerate public and private investment in innovation and modernisation in all key sectors. “We are making this transition to a modern and clean economy taking into account the differences in the energy mix and economic structures across the EU. Beyond updating and strengthening our energy and climate legislation, the EU aims at developing enabling measures that will stimulate investment, create jobs, improve the skills of people, empower and innovate industries and ensure that no citizen, worker or region is left behind in this process,” the Commission said.

The deal sets a new, binding, renewable energy target for the EU for 2030 of 32%, including a review clause by 2023 for an upward revision of the EU level target, the Commission said, adding that it also improves the design and stability of support schemes for renewables.

Moreover, the deal delivers real streamlining and reduction of administrative procedures. The deal also establishes a clear and stable regulatory framework on self-consumption, increases the level of ambition for the transport and heating/cooling sectors and improves the sustainability of the use of bioenergy.

Following this political agreement, the text of the Directive will have to be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council. Once endorsed by both co-legislators in the coming months, the updated Renewable energy Directive will be published in the Official Journal of the Union and will enter into force 20 days after publication. Member States will have to transpose the new elements of the Directive into national law 18 months after its entry into force.

Fighting climate change

ALDE MEP Fredrick Federley said he is satisfied with the outcome of at least 32 % renewable energy for 2030.

“A higher ambition for renewable energy in Europe is a key issue in the fight to combat climate change. Europe has been falling behind global leaders on renewable energy and it is good that we now can pick up the fight. I’m happy that we reached an EU binding goal of 32% renewable energy,” Federley said. “Liberals and Democrats have played a key role in forging a progressive compromise on a renewable energy target. Despite the reluctance of some EU Governments, we have managed to adopt a very clear position that secures an ambitious road to promoting renewable energy, safeguards investments made, pushes for the next generation of biofuels and starts phasing out the promotion of biofuels from feedstocks such as Palm oil.”

SolarEurope CEO James Watson said the deal is a good one for solar. “We see a much more ambitious target than was expected just a few months ago and importantly we have a strong framework for self-consumption and prosumers. Households wake up this morning with the knowledge that they will have a new right – the right to self-generate, consume and store the energy they produce.”

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Director General Adnan Z. Amin has also welcomed the EU’s decision to increase its renewable energy target. “The EU’s decision to increase its renewable energy target from 27% to 32% by 2030 is a move that consolidates Europe’s position at the forefront of the global energy transformation, and establishes a positive decarbonisation pathway in line with its commitments under the Paris Agreement,” he said. “It is also recognition that the new economics of renewable energy have propelled it to the forefront of energy policy and investment decision making as governments around the world look to address long-term climate and economic agendas.”

In reaction to the agreement, Wendel Trio, Director of CAN Europe said much more ambition is needed to match the scale of the action required to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. “The lack of urgency to act to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts is alarming. And if the EU is to make the most of the benefits that renewable energy sources have to offer in terms of job creation, reductions in energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions cuts, the agreed 2030 binding target of 32% should be seen as a starting line for the race to greater ambition.”

“Next to the targets, it is important to make the revised renewable energy directive work in the real world. It is positive that the new law on renewable energy gives citizens the right to produce their own renewable energy without punitive charges. However, we are appalled at the lack of adequate sustainability measures regarding bioenergy in transport, electricity, and in the heating and cooling sectors,” Trio said.

Energy Efficiency Directive

The World Wide Fund (WWF) criticised the deal, noting that decision-makers failed to reach agreement on the Energy Efficiency Directive, with the European Parliament’s position remaining more progressive than that of the EU Council. In the next talks the Council should be ready to move forward and accept a higher binding energy efficiency target and a more effective annual energy savings rule, WWF said.

“Going for a renewables target that is barely above business-as-usual is a spectacular failure by the EU,” said Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office. “It will undermine jobs, the economy and the climate in one fell swoop. Renewables will continue to gain market share because they make economic sense, but the EU has missed its chance to boost them further through a strong and binding target and reap the benefits for its citizens and industry,” she added.

“And the elephant in the room when it comes to the Renewable Energy Directive is bioenergy”, continued Lübbeke. “Despite valiant efforts by the Parliament’s Green Rapporteur Bas Eickhout, the EU has adopted rules on biofuels and forest biomass that will likely increase emissions compared to fossil fuels and so make climate change worse. In doing so, EU policymakers have disregarded science and set a terrible example to the rest of the world. They should hang their heads in shame at this disgraceful decision, which WWF believes will in time have to be reversed.”

Solar panels could soon cover millions more rooftops in Europe, after the EU reached the deal on June 14 to make it easier for households to play a part in the renewable energy transition, said Greenpeace.

At the same time, European governments curbed the Parliament’s efforts to increase the share of renewables in the EU’s energy system, with a review of the target in 2023, and rejected important safeguards against the harmful effects of bioenergy and biofuels.

Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser Sebastian Mang said noted that this deal, for the first time, recognises the rights of ordinary people to participate in Europe’s energy revolution and overturns some very big barriers to the fight against climate change. “It gives people and communities greater control over their energy use, empowering them to accelerate the development of renewable energy and challenge energy giants across the continent. But the renewables target of 32% is far too low and allows power companies to cling onto fossil fuels and false solutions,” Mang said.

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