European Union governments must modernise their electricity grids and remove investment barriers to meet a 20% target for renewable energy use in 2020, the bloc's executive said today (27 March).
While the 27 EU countries are currently on track to achieve the 2020 renewable energy goal, many risk falling behind in the coming years without additional efforts, the European Commission said.
"There are reasons for concern about future progress: the transposition of the directive has been slower than wished, also due to the current economic crisis in Europe," the Commission said in a statement.
The warning came as the Commission issued a Green Paper that sketches out new 2030 targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and using clean energy, designed to keep the EU at the forefront of global efforts to combat climate change.
The bloc currently has three 2020 climate policy goals: to cut carbon emissions by 20% compared with 1990 levels, increase renewables to 20% and improve energy savings by 20%.
It is currently on course to meet the first two targets – which are legally binding – but not the non-binding energy efficiency goal.
Green Paper on energy
The Commission's Green Paper launches a public consultation that marks the first step towards creating a 2030 framework for EU climate change and energy policies.
The EU executive also published today its communication on the future of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in Europe.
"We need to define our climate and energy policy framework for 2030 as soon as possible to ensure proper investment that will give us sustainable growth, affordable competitive energy prices and greater energy security," Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said in a statement.
"The new framework must take into account the consequences of the economic crisis, but it must also be ambitious enough to meet the necessary long-term goal of cutting emissions 80-95% by 2050," he said.
Connie Hedegaard, the commissioner for Climate Action, said mapping out setting the stage for "a low-carbon society for 2050" would boost the economy.
"The sooner we do that, the more certainty we get to our companies and our investors," she said in announcing the Green Paper. "And the more ambitious these targets are, the better for the climate.''
"It is important to put long-term climate and renewable energy policies in place, and the European Commission and Council already agree that an increase in renewable energy is a 'no-regrets' option," said Justin Wilkes, policy director of the European Wind Energy Association. "Energy policy debate over the coming months will be crucial to Europe's future."
EU countries, Wilkes said, ¨must now join the European Parliament and the Energy and Climate Action Commissioners in support of a 2030 renewable energy target, together with a greenhouse gas target. This would allow Europe to replace fossil fuel imports with a thriving European wind energy industry generating large amounts of zero-emissions renewable power and technology exports".
Eurofer, which represents the steel industry, criticised plans to introduce a 40% reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions for 2030. “It is exactly because of a complete lack of economically viable technologies that our sector cannot meet such a target. The Commission should be aware of this since its own Joint Research Centre has confirmed this in its recent study on CO2 emissions in the European steel industry,” Gordon Moffat, director-general of Eurofer, said in a statement.
A 40% target, Moffat said, would add to energy costs. “What we really need is a target and measures to decrease the gap of average energy prices between the EU and its main competitors,” Moffat said.
Eurelectric, which represents the electricity industry, welcomed the publication of the Commission’s Green Paper on the 2030 Framework for Energy and Climate Policies.
“Today’s Green Paper should be the starting point of a robust debate on a strong energy and climate policy package for 2030. This package must be agreed as soon as possible – ideally before summer 2014. For our sector, which mainly invests big and long-term, 2020 is tomorrow. Clarity on the 2030 framework is urgently needed to ensure that electricity companies can invest to put the sector on track for Europe’s transition towards a low-carbon energy system,” said the group’s secretary-general, Hans ten Berge.
The Commission’s green paper overlooked the importance of an energy savings target, the Coalition for Energy Savings said in a statement. “We welcome the public consultation and hope it will show that stepping up energy efficiency with a binding energy savings target for 2030 must be at the heart of an integrated climate and energy policy that tackles Europe’s competitiveness challenges”, said the organisation’s secretary-general, Stefan Scheuer.
“The European Commission is doing a disservice to the EU’s long-term competitiveness in putting energy efficiency and savings on the back burner and focusing on traditional and short-term supply side options. A greenhouse gas target alone is simply not enough to put the EU on the path to a sustainable energy future”.
Commenting on the release of the Green Paper, Greenpeace EU energy policy advisor Frederic Thoma said: “The Commission has sounded the start of round one but EU governments will decide if Europe goes into the ring ready for victory or with one arm tied behind its back. As it stands, the Commission’s lack of ambition on 2030 climate, renewables and energy efficiency targets make the EU a lightweight.”
In a statement, Greenpeace said it supported at least a 55% cut in domestic carbon emissions by 2030, a 45% share of renewables in the energy system and a binding commitment to cut energy waste across the EU.
Wendel Trio, who heads Climate Action Network Europe, said in a statement: "By neglecting the seriousness of the climate crisis, the Commission does not recognise the reality of the planet we are living on or the problems ordinary people are facing. The cost to our economy from inaction on climate change will be enormous. By setting ambitious and binding targets for renewable energy and energy savings, in addition to a greenhouse gas emission reduction target that is in line with avoiding dangerous climate change, we could begin to tackle the problem.”
“Study after study shows that reducing our carbon footprint would improve the competitiveness of European industry while providing greater energy security and millions of new jobs,” Trio said.” The level of ambition needed to make the transition to a more sustainable energy system is totally missing from the Green Paper.”
Samuel Maubanc, General Manager of AEPGL, the European LPG Association said. “While it is true that targets for 2030 will facilitate investments in the necessary measures to reduce emissions, we need to be sure that these targets are realistic and achievable, and make use of all energy options available- including LPG and natural gas”.
Europe aims to reduce its primary energy use by 20% by 2020, a target which is not legally binding. The Energy Efficiency Directive was proposed by the European Commission in mid-2011 as part of its effort to reach this objective. To do this, the EU will need to more than double its energy savings efforts, according to the Commission's estimates.
In its draft energy efficiency directive, the Commission proposed individual measures for each of the sectors that could play a role in reducing energy consumption, including an obligation on energy companies to reduce their deliveries to customers by 1.5% each year, that has proved complex and in many quarters controversial.
- 2020: Deadline for the EU to cut carbon emissions by 20% compared with 1990 levels, increase renewables to 20% and improve energy savings by 20%.