According to the new legislation, agreed between the Union's lawmakers today (9 December), each EU country will be required to significantly increase the contribution of renewable energies to its energy mix, leading to an overall EU share of 20% by 2020. A 10% share of biofuels in transport by 2020, part of the overall 20% renewables target, was agreed previously under the condition that indirect land-use considerations and other sustainability criteria are taken into account (see EurActiv 05/12/08).
Italy, with some support from Austria, had called during the last stages of the discussions for a general review clause in 2014. This could have led to the revision of the 20% EU target or of the individual national targets based on existing progress made and the likely success of subsequent efforts.
But Rome's proposal was afforded a cool reception from the Parliament and a number of EU member states on the grounds that the possibility of downgraded targets could undermine investor confidence and throw the entire project into disarray. Italy ultimately backed down after a compromise was struck whereby the Commission will publish a progress review in 2014 that excludes the possibility of changing national or EU targets.
The breakthrough on the review clause and the broader deal on the renewables proposal was signalled by the French EU Presidency yesterday (8 December) following a meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels.
The measures that will be mandated as part of the agreement are largely in line with the policy framework set out by Luxembourg Green MEP Claude Turmes, Parliament's rapporteur on the file.
Turmes, who received MEPs' backing for his report in September (EurActiv 12/09/08), has been credited with pushing occasionally reluctant member states towards an agreement on the new directive.
Among the most important concessions Turmes was forced to make to secure the deal was the rejection of a regime whereby member states would have faced financial penalties for failing to reach interim targets towards the 2020 goal.
As part of a wider compromise, member states must, by 2010, draw up and submit to the Commission for review detailed national action plans (NAPs) based on an 'indicative trajectory', followed by progress reports submitted every two years. Brussels reserves the power to enact infringement proceedings if states do not take 'appropriate measures' towards their targets, meaning the decision to take legal action will be based on the Commission's discretion rather than on strict criteria.
Producers of renewable electricity are also set to receive preferential access to EU grids under the new directive, which contains further provisions to cut the red tape blocking renewable energy uptake in many EU countries.
Member states will be permitted to link their national support schemes with those of other EU states, and will be allowed under certain conditions to import 'physical' renewable energy from third-country sources such as large solar farms in North Africa. 'Virtual' imports, based on renewable energy investments in third countries, cannot be counted towards national targets, however.
A system of open trading in renewable energy certificates between EU member states, favoured by EU electricity market traders and large electric utilities, was rejected in favour of a system whereby a member state can sell or trade excess renewables credits to another member state based on statistical values.
These so-called 'statistical transfers', which can only be conducted under the condition that the selling member state has reached its interim renewables targets, can also be applied in cases where member states cooperate on joint projects, according to the deal, which will receive the public endorsement of EU heads of state during the upcoming 11-12 December EU summit in Brussels.