An early draft of the EU’s upcoming renewable energy directive confirms the bloc’s objective of sourcing 38-40% of its energy from renewables by 2030, roughly doubling the share of solar, wind and other renewables in Europe’s energy mix by the end of the decade.
The European Commission’s revised renewable energy directive will be presented on 14 July as part of a broader package of laws intended to meet the bloc’s updated climate goals for 2030.
Only two weeks ago, policymakers agreed on a new European Climate Law which, for the first time, makes the bloc’s 2050 climate neutrality objective a legal obligation on the EU.
The new law also sets an objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, although that goal will also take into account carbon removals from forestry and land use, making the gross target look more like a 52 or 53% reduction.
“Renewable energy plays a fundamental role for delivering the European Green Deal and for achieving climate neutrality by 2050,” says a draft cost-benefit analysis of the proposal, published on the website of the Renewable Heating & Cooling Alliance, an industry group.
“The energy sector contributes over 75% of total GHG emissions in the EU and energy efficiency and renewables are therefore central to achieving the higher climate ambition for 2030,” the document states.
The current directive was last updated in 2018 and aims for a 32% share of renewables in the EU’s energy mix by 2030. Ratcheting up this target to 38-40% means roughly doubling the share of renewables, which currently meet around 20% of the bloc’s energy needs.
The initiatives being considered in the draft are summarised in a table of policy options. They include:
- A boost for renewables used in heating and cooling, with a new binding target of 1.1 percentage point annual increase.
- A ban on fossil fuels in district heating and cooling
- An EU benchmark for renewables used in buildings.
- An increase in the renewables target for transport, from 14% to 26%.
- And increase in the sub-target for advanced biofuels, from 3.5% to 5.5%, and the introduction of a dedicated supply obligation for aviation
- Increased cross-border cooperation on offshore renewables, with an obligation for EU member states to cooperate within each sea basin, and a one-stop-shop for permitting of cross-border offshore wind projects.
- An EU benchmark for the use of renewables in industry, including labelling for green industrial products in certain sectors.
- Mainstreaming of renewable electricity in transport, and heating and cooling.
- A certification system for renewable and low-carbon fuels.
- A targeted strengthening of bioenergy sustainability criteria, with possible national caps on the use of stem wood above a certain size for energy.
Not everyone is happy with the ideas contained in the proposal, though. SolarPower Europe, an industry group, expressed frustration at the Commission’s envisaged 38-40% target, saying it could have been higher.
“Reaching 45% renewable energy by 2030 is possible and would set the EU on a cost-effective trajectory to become climate neutral before 2050,” said Miguel Herrero, policy advisor at SolarPower Europe.
“To get there, the renewable energy directive review must tackle remaining issues around the permitting process for renewable energy projects and enhance the framework for commercial and industrial renewable energy self-consumption,” he told EURACTIV.
WindEurope, a trade association, welcomed the Commission’s improved target for 2030 but insisted on solving permitting procedures to accelerate the deployment of wind farms, both onshore and offshore.
“The most ambitious renewable energy targets remain academic if we don’t solve permitting,” says Christoph Zipf, communication manager at WindEurope. To speed up procedures, WindEurope is calling on the European Commission to benchmark best practices from EU member states and “act as a clearing house promoting successful permitting practices”.
WWF, the global conservation group, expressed doubts about the EU executive’s resolve to address sustainability issues related to biomass.
“It seems it may finally be dawning on the Commission that burning trees in the name of stopping climate change is a really stupid idea,” said Alex Mason, senior policy officer at WWF’s European Policy Office.
“But it’s having to be dragged – kicking and screaming – towards this inescapable conclusion, and is grasping for any arguments it can find against doing the right thing. A cap on stemwood above a certain size might provide some damage limitation but falls far short of what’s required and it’s hard to see how it could be policed,” he told EURACTIV in emailed comments.
Sanjeev Kumar, from the European Geothermal Energy Council, welcomed the emphasis placed on renewable heating and cooling, saying this was key to industrial and building decarbonisation.
“Whilst attention will focus on the 38-40% target, there are many aspects within this very early draft which will lay the foundation for Member States to overshoot this target by 2030,” he told EURACTIV in emailed comments.
[Edited by Josie Le Blond]