Member states' targets
A new EU directive on renewable energies, agreed in December 2008, requires each member state to increase its share of renewable energies – such as solar, wind or hydro – in the bloc's energy mix to raise the overall share from 8.5% today to 20% by 2020. A 10% share of 'green fuels' in transport is also included within the overall EU target (EURACTIV 05/12/08).
To achieve the objective, every nation in the 27-member bloc is required to increase its share of renewables by 5.5% from 2005 levels, with the remaining increase calculated on the basis of per capita gross domestic product (GDP).
Share of renewables in 2005
Share required by 2020
The directive set a series of interim targets, known as 'indicative trajectories', in order to ensure steady progress towards the 2020 targets.
- 20% average between 2011 and 2012;
- 30% average between 2013 and 2014;
- 45% average between 2015 and 2016, and;
- 65% average between 2017 and 2018.
EU countries are free to decide their own preferred 'mix' of renewables, allowing them to take account of their different potentials. They must present national action plans (NAPs) based on the indicative trajectories to the European Commission by 30 June 2010, followed by progress reports submitted every two years. The plans will need to be defined across three sectors: electricity, heating and cooling, and transport.
The compromise agreement eventually rejected a regime whereby member states would have faced financial penalties for failing to reach interim targets towards the 2020 goal. Member states are, however, required to submit amended NAPs, setting out measures for rejoining the indicative trajectories.
Brussels reserves the right to enact infringement proceedings if states do not take 'appropriate measures' towards their targets, meaning the decision to take legal action will be at the Commission's discretion rather than based on strict criteria.
Flexibility with national support schemes
Member states will be permitted to link their national support schemes to 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. However, so-called 'virtual' imports, based on renewable energy investments in third countries, cannot be counted towards national targets.
A system of open trading in renewable energy certificates between EU member states, favoured by electricity market traders and large electricity utilities, was rejected in favour of a system whereby one member state can sell or trade excess renewables credits to another, based on statistical values.
These so-called 'statistical transfers', which can only take place if the selling member state has reached its interim renewables targets, can also be applied in cases where member states cooperate on joint projects.
Buildings and district heating
While the directive primarily focuses on promoting large-scale renewable energy installations, member states are nevertheless requested to use "minimum levels for the use of energy from renewable sources in buildings". Moreover, the text provides for the mutual recognition of certification for technicians who install renewable technologies in buildings (see EURACTIV LinksDossier on EU buildings legislation).
Architects and planners are also to benefit from national 'guidance' when planning new construction projects, while local and regional administrative bodies should be encouraged to "ensure equipment and systems are installed for the use of heating, cooling and electricity from renewable sources, and for district heating and
cooling when planning, designing, building and refurbishing industrial or residential areas". In particular, they should be urged to consider heating and cooling from renewables when planning city infrastructures.
Infrastructure and grid access
Many smaller producers of renewable energy argue that a lack of transparency and blocked access to energy grids are preventing them from competing on the market (EURACTIV 06/07/07).
The text seeks to address the problem by requesting member states to ensure that transmission and distribution system operators provide "either priority access or guaranteed access to the grid system of electricity produced from renewable energy sources".
At an EU summit in February 2011, EU leaders acknowledged that further green growth would require a high-tech 'smart' power grid – estimated to cost about €200 billion – to carry wind power from the north and solar power from the Mediterranean to central cities such as Paris and Prague (EURACTIV 08/02/11). This would become necessary to make up for the natural variation inherent in sources of energy like wind and solar.