Parliament, Commission set for clash over 2030 clean energy goals


The European Parliament yesterday (9 January) voted for three binding energy and climate targets in 2030, audaciously backing a 40% energy savings improvement, but EURACTIV understands that a meeting of nine EU commissioners this morning is set to endorse a far weaker text. 

A joint meeting of the Parliament’s environment and industry committees yesterday backed a motion that also called for a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions, and 30% market share for renewables by 2030.

But sources close to the European Commission say that a text slated for approval by its president, José Manuel Barroso, and several other commissioners today will only support a 40% cut in CO2 emissions, and a consequent non-binding renewables target of between 24%-27% for Europe as a whole, although individual member states may go further.

The figure is in line with projections in an EU ‘Trends to 2050’ document released over the Christmas period which, under a business as usual scenario, predicted an EU-wide failure to decarbonise by 2050.   

Sources in the renewable energy industry described the proposed goal as “completely ridiculous” as the Commission’s own impact assessment had found that a sole binding greenhouse gas target would lead to an additional €350 billion of spending on fossil fuel imports.

But an argument from the UK – that a single target could be cheaper in other ways and allow governments policy flexibility – appears to have won out.

An anaemic improvement in energy efficiency is also forecast in the text to be debated by Commissioners this morning, although a final sign-off on the deal could be delayed until after the European Parliament elections in May.

“There is a strong desire to decide this whole package in the June Energy Efficiency review,” a source said. “It is a missed opportunity.”

The EU’s 2030 communication is due to be released on 22 January along with policy pronouncements on carbon market reform, shale gas, the Fuel Quality Directive and industrial competitiveness.

Heated debate

Agreed in its present form, the 2030 text will make for a heated European Parliament plenary debate in the first week of February when its own newly-minted 2030 report is due to be discussed.

Speaking immediately after the joint parliamentary committee passed the report yesterday morning, the environment committee’s chair, Matthias Groote (Socialists & Democrats), told EURACTIV that MEPs were sending “a very clear message to the Commission that it has to go for three ambitious targets.”

“Our climate-sceptic colleagues have lost everything,” he added

Peter Liese (European Peoples Party), an influential German Conservative MEP told EURACTIV that the MEPs vote signalled a sea change in the way Europe approached climate and energy policy.

Parliament’s position was now “fully in line with the new German government’s position,” he noted.

Jolly green German giant?

A turf war between Berlin’s green-inclined environment ministry and a more industry-friendly energy ministry recently ended with the former environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, taking the energy portfolio in a new coalition government.

Since doing so, he has already called for a 2030 renewable energy target and Liese claims that he is similarly pushing for an energy efficiency target behind the scenes. “Gabriel is a fighter,” he said.

Germany’s bearing on the 2030 vote was “a very sensitive question,” the Belgian MEP Anne Delvaux (EPP) said, “but there is a clear influence. I have the impression that the national debate in Germany comes here and tries to impose itself.”

Even so, the European Commission has long-insisted that any new energy savings goal for 2030 is moot until a June review decides whether Europe is on track to meet a non-binding 20% target for 2020. Few believe that it is, inside or outside the Commission.  

Liese flagged one possible halfway house between the Commission and Parliament before the plenary vote.

“Our most important message is that energy efficiency can’t be the orphan of climate policy, it must be much more in focus,” he said. “But there is room for negotiation. If the target was 35%, that would still be very ambitious.”

An 80% improvement in buildings efficiency by 2050 was also flagged in the report, as was a binding increase in grid interconectors, a crucial issue for the renewables industy in Portugal. 

Like other MEPs canvassed by EURACTIV, Delvaux said that the passages on energy savings were the most important aspect of the new report. “We are in a crisis period and if you invest in this you will have a clear return so it should be the cornerstone of our policy, more even than renewables,” she said.

Sources in the energy efficiency industry also welcomed the vote. Manlio Valdes, the president of Ingersoll Rand Europe, Middle East and Africa, hailed it as “a fantastic first step in the right direction – although there is still some way to go.”

European businesses specialised in energy efficiency often felt let down by government leaders that opposed energy targets, he said, adding: “I don’t understand why they are not more supportive.”

The Greens/European Free Alliance Group in the Parliament reacted to the vote saying it was an “important and timely signal”.

“The EU should not repeat the mistake made with the lack of ambition in its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction target, as this has undermined the effectiveness of overall climate policy and key instruments like the emissions trading scheme. To this end, we should be aiming for 60% reduction by 2030, which various scenarios have made clear is possible with ambitious policies on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Unfortunately, MEPs today only voted for mere 40%.”

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) welcomed the vote:

“"In its upcoming communication on 22 January, the Commission must propose an ambitious and binding renewable energy target. It cannot deny the findings of its own impact assessment which says a renewable energy target is better for the economy than a greenhouse gas target alone - over 560,000 more jobs, EUR500 billion in fossil fuel import savings, and lower energy costs for energy intensive industries."

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) supports the vote: “Making our energy system - and our economy - really sustainable requires rethinking several aspects, from market design to grid operation rules. While market mechanisms need to be exploited at their full potential, they cannot deliver if not framed by policy choices. A 2030 binding target for renewables would be a catalyst for this transformation, which would otherwise be out of reach under an incremental-based strategy”.

The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) called the vote a “key message ahead of the oublication of the European Commission’s Communication on Climate and Energy 2030 Framework. a binding target for renewables post-2020 strengthens Europe’s industrial position and will boost both urgently needed economic growth and job creation””

The World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF, said that the MEPs’ vote “reflects the evidence that the benefits of cutting CO2 from the EU's energy system are best unlocked by binding targets. Without binding targets there can be no confidence from investors.”

“Now it is up to the European Commission and the EU Member States to set the right level of ambition that is needed to decarbonise Europe and fight climate change.”

The Coalition for Energy Savings said that the vote “confirms that making the efficiency target binding is the only way forward to capture our huge energy saving potentials as the first step to reduce energy costs, create jobs and protect the climate – all at the same time”

The European Heat Pump Association “welcomes the outcome of today’s vote which marks an important step towards an emergence of the European policy on heat. If the European Union is serious about meeting its climate and energy goals, the EU institutions now need to focus on developing legislation which would support and facilitate the development of efficient heating and cooling technologies.”

The European Insulation Manufacturers Association (EURIMA) said: “Today’s vote clearly shows –concluded te Bos- that the “no-regret options?, such as Energy Efficiency, need to play a central role in the EU?s climate and energy policies for coming decades. The single GHG target approach, favoured by some, would indeed be the “deep regret option” that would hamper the very-much needed energy transition. The European Parliament has shown the way, and there is no reason not to follow it!”

The European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings said that the “vote strongly echoes the ambition of our Renovate Europe Campaign and sends a very clear message to the Council and the European Commission about where the real opportunity for climate and energy policy lies – the European Parliament is an important striker in this ballgame to 2030, and has voiced its opinion loud and clear!”

The President of BusinessEurope, Emma Marcegaglia and the Director General Markus J. Beyer sent a letter to the Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, urging him “to ensure that this climate and energy package is fully compatible with the imperative need of strengthening our industries and restoring Europe as a place for industrial investment (…) The unilateral emissions target by 2030 envisaged by the European Commission would, once again, place the EU as an isolated frontrunner (…),” the letter concludes.

Andrea Voigt, the director-general of the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE) posted a comment to EURACTIV welcoming the European Parliament vote. "Energy efficiency deserves a mandatory target," she said. "It will boost the economy, create jobs, and lead to greenhouse gas reductions. Heating and cooling contributes to over 40% to the energy use in the EU and has tremendous potential to achieve energy savings. To tap the full potential, a mandatory target is paramount".

A European Commission consultation document (or 'Green Paper') for the EU's 2030 climate and energy policy mentions a potential greenhouse gas emission-reduction target of 40%, and does not close the door on a 30% target for the proportion of energy that renewables should make up by 2030.

But the consultation document suggests that any new energy savings goal be delayed until after a review of progress towards reaching the bloc’s 2020 target in June 2014, despite recognising that this goal was non- binding, and unlikely to be met. 

The EU currently has three 2020 climate plans – for 20% improvements on the continent’s CO2 emissions, renewables and energy consumption performances. This latter is to be met by a variety of means.

  • 22 January 2014: EU climate and energy package to be announced
  • May 2014: New EU Parliament to be elected
  • May 2014: EU member states must prepare schemes for their energy companies to deliver annual energy savings of 1.5% as part of the Energy Efficiency Directive
  • June 2014: Review of progress towards meeting the 2020 energy efficiency target
  • 2020: Deadline for EU states to meet binding targets for 20% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, improvements in energy efficiency, and market share for renewable energy

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