Commission official: EU should re-examine renewable energy rules

“I hear so much criticism around,” Artur Runge-Metzger, Director of DG Climate Action in the European Commission said. [Shutterstock]

The recently updated Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) has drawn much criticism and it would be good for the European Commission to look at it again, a high-ranking official in the EU executive has admitted.

“I think that probably the Commission will do good to look at it, again, whether this is going to lead to a new proposal, or whatsoever,” Artur Runge-Metzger, director of the Commission’s Climate Action directorate, said at a EURACTIV event last week.

“I hear so much criticism around,” he added.

As part of the ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ package, EU member states revised the Renewable Energy Directive in an effort to both boost the use of renewables and help the bloc meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

Particularly, the EU decided to set a 14% target for renewables in transport.

Currently, EU countries are tweaking their draft National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), which will set the precise mixture of renewable energies for the coming decade. The deadline to submit their finalised plans is by the end of the year.

However, Farm Europe, a think tank specialising in agricultural topics, recently published a study, suggesting that the current draft plans risk being ineffective due to the lack of calculation method for the cost-effectiveness of the proposals.

Study: No EU country has calculated transport decarbonisation costs

The EU risks missing its target to decarbonise transport by 2030, as in the current draft plans of member states, there is no cost-effectiveness calculation of the different proposed measures, a study has found.

The study emphasised that the vast majority of member states, such as Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Poland, “vaguely” rely on electrification.

But the cost of transition to electric cars is not calculated in any member state, according to the study, and the slow progress when it comes to electrification infrastructure could be an obstacle for quick deployment.

Asked by EURACTIV how a policy can be effective without having assessed first the cost, Runge-Metzger disagreed “very strongly” with the view that member states have not taken costs into account when they were drafting the national plans.

“I think that is completely wrong […] We’re not getting all the details and putting them into the NECPs as [in this case] an NECP could easily become a 1,500-page document if you want to put all the details,” he said.

“The Commission has said in its recommendations that it would be helpful to provide, in some instances, clearer numbers and clearer figures. There’s no doubt about it but I reject the argument that the member states did not look at cost at all,” he emphasised, adding that any government that did not do so would be out of office soon.

Runge-Metzger added that in the new year all relevant stakeholders should sit around the same table and have a deep reflection on what is next. “I think all sectors will have to contribute all technologies that are available, we will have to look at it again,” he said.

The missing element

Speaking to EURACTIV on the sidelines of the event, Emmanuel Desplechin, secretary-general of the EU ethanol association (ePURE), said decarbonising transport fuels is the missing element in the EU climate and energy package between the RED, which spurs renewable energy deployment, and the CO2 targets for vehicles, which only consider reducing tailpipe emissions.

Desplechin referred to the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), which sets environmental requirements for petrol and diesel fuel in order to reduce their air pollutant emissions.

“The FQD, which requires a reduction of the GHG intensity of transport fuels by at least 6% in 2020, should already be making a major impact on emissions,” he said.

But according to new data from the European Environment Agency, there’s still a lot of work to do by next year; most countries are falling short of the targets, he added.

For Desplechin, restoring investors’ confidence requires the Commission to ensure that the 2020 targets are there to be met.

“The FQD goes beyond what kind of cars people drive and improves the GHG of the fuels people put in them, allowing low carbon fuels such as ethanol blends to contribute to transport decarbonisation.”

“Meeting the FQD target and keeping it in place beyond 2020 would make the benefits of the Green Deal start paying off in the existing car fleet, and also in the vehicles that will represent an important share of the market for decades to come,” Desplechin concluded.

[Edited by Sam Morgan]

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