Energy ministers from the 27 EU countries pledged to maintain momentum for a post-2020 renewables policy framework after a meeting in Brussels yesterday (3 December), but behind the formulaic words, old divisions remained.
The Energy Council conclusions said that options presented by the European Commission “need to ensure that the strong impetus provided by the current legislative framework is not lost” and that the potential for renewable energy was fully harnessed.
But Irish Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte said there was “no consensus around the table yet” on renewables targets for 2030, although discussions would continue under the Irish presidency, which begins on 1 January.
“A substantial body of states wants to maintain the momentum but some – like Poland – are strongly opposed to binding targets being fixed after 2020,” he told reporters in Brussels.
Rabbitte pinpointed the importance of long-term certainty for investors in the renewable industry as reason to press on, despite what he called Warsaw's "very assertive" stance.
The EU has a binding target to increase the share of renewable energy in the continent’s energy mix to 20% by 2020, which has given a shot in the arm to Europe’s budding wind and solar industries.
EU states such as Denmark and the Netherlands favour extending the approach to 2030. But despite a call by the energy commissioner for a decision on new targets before 2014 at the launch of the EU’s energy roadmap a year ago, discussions are still ongoing.
The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA)'s Peter Sennekamp described yesterday’s Council meeting as “a useful step forward” but said that it had failed to address what EWEA calls “the current crisis being experienced by the wind industry”.
Stop-go policies and retroactive charging had undermined business confidence and needlessly increased capital costs in the clean technology sector, the trade association said in a letter to the EU's energy commissioner, Günther Oettinger.
“The general approach is that we oughtn’t to allow the momentum there for renewables to stall,” Rabbitte said, but he acknowledged that this was easier said than done.
Ireland’s permanent representative to the EU, Rory Montgomery, gave an illustration of the challenges ahead when he addressed a roundtable at the European Policy Centre think tank last week.
While Dublin was looking to implement the internal energy market and make progress on the Seventh Environmental Action Programme, “the momentum on these issues has slipped,” he noted.
“The Council recognised the need for ensuring continuity and stability for Europe’s renewable energy sector so that it continues to grow up to 2030 and beyond, and did so by calling for a solid and effective post-2020 framework”, said Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes, President of the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC).
“This sets the right conditions for the Commission to now start work on an ambitious 2030 renewables target, and we hope that the upcoming report from the European Parliament on ‘Current challenges and opportunities for renewable energy on the European energy market’ will echo this”, he added. EREC supports a target ensuring that renewable energy makes up a 45% share of Europe's electricity mix by 2030.
The EU has set itself a legally binding goal for 2020 of reducing its CO2 emissions by 20% and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix by the same amount, both measured against 1990 levels.
A target of a 20% increase in energy efficiency has also been set but it is not legally enforceable. The low carbon roadmap in March this year stated that if it were met, emissions cuts would automatically rise to 25%, five percentage points above the target.
In October 2009, EU leaders endorsed a long-term target of reducing collective developed country emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. This is in line with the recommendations of the UN's scientific arm - the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - for preventing catastrophic changes to the Earth's climate.
- 2014: Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has said he wants a decision taken on binding renewables targets for 2030 by the end of the Commission's current term in 2014
- 2020: Deadline for the EU's three climate goals to be met: a 20% cut in CO2 emissions measured on 1990 levels; a 20% increase in the share of renewables in the continent's energy mix, also using the 1990 baseline, and a non-binding 20% increase in energy efficiency, measured against 2005 levels.