Czechs under fire over EU climate target

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Both ecologists and companies investing in renewable energies have criticised the approach of the Czech government towards the 20/20/20 climate goals in the EU's 'Europe 2020' strategy. While ecologists blame the government for loosening rules on energy efficiency in buildings, it stands accused by companies of favouring large combustion plants over smaller renewable sources. EURACTIV Czech Republic reports.

Europe is obliged to make substantial greenhouse gas reductions by 2020. Based on 2005 levels, there should be a 21% cut in sectors covered by the EU's emissions trading scheme (ETS) and reductions of around 10% for those that are not.

''Taken together, this results in an overall reduction of -14% compared with 2005, which is equivalent to a reduction of -20% compared with 1990,'' the European Commission stated.

However, the Czech Republic managed to reduce its emissions in the early 1990s when it completely restructured its industry. Therefore, Czech emissions in sectors not covered by the ETS could rise by 9% between 2005 and 2020, according to estimates in the EU's climate and energy package.

This goal is closely related to two others in the package: ''to increase the share of renewable energy to 20% by 2020 and to achieve the EU's objective of improving energy efficiency by 20% within the same timeframe.''

The Czech Republic is obliged to reach a 13% share of renewables in its energy mix by 2020.

More 'passive' buildings

The energy savings targets are due to be discussed while finalising the 'Europe 2020' strategy. The Czech government has announced plans to improve the country's energy efficiency by 3.7-5.7% by 2020.

However, ecologists claim that this target lacks ambition and have been particularly critical of the government's attitude towards energy-efficient buildings.

''When building a new house, you decide how much you will spend on energy, not only in the next five but the next fifty years,'' stated Karel Polanecký, an energy expert at environmental NGO Hnutí DUHA. 

'If the Czech Republic intends to decrease its dependency on imports of gas from Russia and coal mining, it must force developers to build energy-efficient houses,'' he added.

Polanecký is critical of the Czech government for its very low energy-efficiency targets in the context of Europe 2020. Developers will be allowed to build new houses without having to achieve the so-called 'low-energy standard' until 2020, according to the government proposal. ''From 2015, all new buildings should be not only low energy, but passive,'' Polanecký suggests.

Nevertheless, the Czech Environment Ministry argues that it supports passive houses within the  generous 'Green Savings' programme. The Czech Republic has raised funds for this programme by selling emission credits under the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions. The overall anticipated allocation for the programme is up to 25 billion Czech crowns (just over €970 million).

Jana Chloubová from the government's press department recalled that the EU's Energy Performance of Buildings Directive stipulates that as of 2020, all buildings should be 'low-energy', but the category is yet to be defined. ''You can not accuse the government of not enforcing the directive,'' Chloubová argued.

The end of decentralised sources?

The Czech Republic should ensure that 13% of its energy consumption is sourced from renewables by 2020. So far, it has relied mainly on biomass (37% share of renewables), water (33%) and wind (19%). However, the share of renewables as a proportion of total energy consumption will only reach 8.5% this year.

Since 2008, when the price of solar collectors fell significantly, many investors have profited from the generous system of feed-in-tariffs. Thus, this year, some 40% of funding dedicated to supporting renewables will go to solar energy plants. Many experts criticised the system for being expensive and ineffective.

As a result, it was changed at the beginning of this year so that feed-in-tariffs can be significantly reduced from 2011.

The government plans to achieve the 13% renewable share mostly by using biomass potential, decision which has been heavily criticised, and not just by the solar industry. Nevertheless, the trend is clearly outlined in the new 'National Action Plan for Energy from Renewables', industry representatives complain.

''If the plan is approved, only a 45 MW capacity of solar collectors is expected to be installed within the next 10 years, which is only 1% of the capacity installed by the end of this year,'' explained Aleš Spá?il from Conergy CZ. He added that ''from renewables, only solar energy has the potential to cover Czech consumption''.

He blames the government for favouring combustion plants fuelled by waste or biomass over other renewables and for neglecting the problem of electricity grids that are not prepared for decentralised energy sources.

However, Chloubová argues that the Czech government aims to exceed the 13% renewables goal by 2020, setting it at 13.5%. ''We will support renewables until our commitments are fulfilled. You cannot just speak about minimum renewables support,'' Chloubová said. ''All the renewables business associations agreed with the allocation of a 13% quota between the renewables sectors [biomass, wind, solar, etc],'' she added.

Meeting the EU's '20/20/20' objectives on greenhouse gas emission reductions and renewable energies is one of the five priorities of a draft ten-year economic plan unveiled by the European Commission in March, called 'Europe 2020' (EURACTIV 03/03/10).

The strategy defines five headline targets at EU level, which member states will be asked to translate into national goals reflecting their differing starting points:

  • Raising the employment rate of the population aged 20-64 from the current 69% to 75%.
  • Raising the investment in R&D to 3% of the EU's GDP.
  • Meeting the EU's '20/20/20' objectives on greenhouse gas emission reduction and renewable energies.
  • Reducing the share of early school leavers from the current 15% to under 10% and making sure that at least 40% of youngsters have a degree or diploma.
  • Reducing the number of Europeans living below the poverty line by 25%, lifting 20 million out of poverty from the current 80 million.

In a series of articles, the EURACTIV network will present the state of play in individual EU countries on each of the targets. This series looks at how member states react to the environmental 20/20/20 targets.

The EURACTIV network already found that Eastern EU countries have either rejected or dismissed as irrelevant the planned EU target to reduce poverty (EURACTIV 06/05/10) and that most will adopt national research and development (R&D) targets that are below the EU-wide goal of spending 3% of GDP on R&D by 2020 (EURACTIV 04/06/10).

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