Ambitious EU climate targets for 2030 that include renewable energy, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reductions could create 4.4 million jobs, cut 550 million tonnes of fossil fuel imports, and reduce energy costs, says a new report by the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC).
“Such an integrated framework would have multiple positive impacts on Europe’s economy and environment because it would provide the necessary clear signals for investors that are currently missing,” said EREC President Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes.
The study, ‘Hat-trick 2030’, due to be launched today (18 April), outlines a raft of benefits that a three-pronged approach to slashing carbon emissions could bring, including:
- A minimum 0.45% growth in Europe’s GDP
- Cuts to decarbonisation costs, project financing, and the need for support mechanisms
- Enhancing the EU’s technological leadership
- Diversifying technology with knock-on benefits across industry
After initial installations are up and running, the cost of renewable projects tend to fall due to economies of scale and a ‘learning by doing’ process in which companies discover how they can avoid repeating each other’s mistakes.
Nonetheless, the International Energy Agency (IEA) on 16 April warned that clean energy investments were currently proceeding to slowly to limit the onset of global warming.
“The drive to clean up the world’s energy system has stalled,” said Maria van der Hoeven, IEA executive director. “Despite much talk by world leaders, and a boom in renewable energy over the past decade, the average unit of energy produced today is basically as dirty as it was 20 years ago.”
The new EREC report also notes that “today, EU subsidies for fossil fuels are four times the level of support allocated to renewable energy.” In this context, many voices in the clean energy industry are warning against EU conservatism in target-setting.
Lech energy forum
The issue’s move up the political agenda can be partly gauged by an energy forum held at Austria’s Lech ski resort on 11-12 April, which was called by EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, and focused substantial discussion on 2030 targets.
Attendees included several European government ministers, a roll call of captains of industry, key figures from the banking world, and the secretary-general of OPEC.
EURACTIV understands from participants at the meeting that while some industrial figures were “anxious” to see further targets set for 2030, there was no unanimity on which targets these should be.
Consensus ended at the need for an investment framework after 2020.
Representatives of the electricity industry present were most concerned to see a revision of the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), which is currently mired in a price doldrum exacerbated by political stasis.
In the long term, structural reform of the carbon market was seen as a necessary condition for creating the right framework for clean energy investment.
Until this is done, the oft-flagged potential of successful energy efficiency measures to anarchically undercut carbon emissions – and thus the EU’s carbon price – may also mitigate against some support for extending its use as a climate target.
More than business as usual
The Commission’s Green Paper for 2030 appeared to de-prioritise the debate over energy efficiency – and only suggested a possible goal for renewables of providing 30% of Europe’s energy by 2030, not far off what many expect to happen anyway.
“We need a new target that is more than the business-as-usual projections,” Hinrichs-Rahlwes said. “EREC has a good track record as its proposal for a 2020 figure of 20% renewables in final energy consumption was taken up in EU legislation.”
“There is good reason to believe that a 45% reduction would be realistic for renewables too,” he added. “For energy efficiency, I’m not sure how high the target should be, but we must be ambitious.”
Some EU states currently advocate a single greenhouse gas reductions target which could be met by a variety of technologies – including gas and nuclear.
That in turn has led to calls for a delay in setting new targets until the next Commission and European Parliament are in place in late 2014.
Hinrichs-Rahlwes said that he could not envision new targets in place before 2015 because “we do not yet have solid enough ground to agree on something”.
An EU communication on 2030 targets is expected before the end of the year.