The European Commission today (30 November) defended its 30% energy efficiency target, as opposed to the higher goal called for by MEPs and campaigners, as it unveiled “clean energy“ plans to boost renewable use, cut waste and reduce subsidies for coal power.
The executive’s Winter Package of new energy rules is part of its push to meet the EU’s international climate commitments in the Paris Agreement. World leaders agreed to cap global warming at no more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.
“We will help Europe turn the Paris agreement into concrete action,” claimed Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU’s Climate Action and Energy Commissioner.
But environmental groups criticised the 28-nation EU for doing too little to end subsidies for carbon-spewing coal power plants and said the plans did not go far enough.
The Commission wants to raise binding energy efficiency targets to 30% by 2030 under the
sweeping package of measures. This is higher than the 27% EU leaders had agreed in October 2014, which would also not be binding.
The Commission today boosted that to the same level that it originally put forward to member states, pointing to the Paris Agreement as reason for the increased ambition.
The European Parliament which must ultimately agree an identical law with member states, has twice backed a 40% target.
Creating 400,000 new jobs
Energy Union Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič said 30% was the best solution after Commission analysis on cost-efficiency and benefits, and that it would create 400,000 new jobs.
“This is the most balanced approach we can have because an approach must be based on consensus,” Cañete said, “It is going to be a huge effort to achieve this across the 28 member states.
“You can put anything on paper but if you can’t implement it, it is meaningless. These are not soft targets, they are not easy targets.”
Under the Paris climate deal struck almost a year ago, the EU plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 over 1990 levels and make renewable energy account for 27% of energy use.
The Commission did not increase its 2030 renewable target, leaving it at the 27% called for at the October European Council.
Carbon-free electricity by 2050
In 2030, the EU aims to have half of the bloc’s electricity generation come from renewables like wind and solar power. By 2050, it hopes electricity will be free of carbon.
The package calls for making renewable energy increasingly market based, setting a regulatory framework designed to reassure investors and set a level playing field for different technologies.
“The new market rules sharpen price signals and promote a more flexible market,” Cañete said.
“Our proposals will boost trading across borders, create a level playing field for renewables, and remove barriers for new actors in the market, and ensuring certainty for investors,” he added.
The proposals on renewables also aim to promote more jobs in a sector that already employs more than one million people. The Commission said some 320,000 worked in the wind energy sector in 2014, five times more than 2005.
High-polluting fossil fuels
The 1,000-page package of measures – which still need to be approved by EU nations and the European Parliament – aims to overhaul the energy market and ensure the shift to clean energy.
The Commission is calling for reducing so-called capacity mechanisms, which are seen as government subsidies used to help power companies avoid electricity blackouts.
The mechanisms used or under consideration in Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden ensure that sufficient electricity supplies are available to meet demand during peak times.
But Cañete said, “Capacity mechanisms will not be used as a backdoor subsidy of high-polluting fossil fuels. That would go against our climate objectives.”
The means the EU has set a limit of 550 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour for new plants while giving time for existing capacity mechanisms to adapt to the new rules.