Renewables: Parliament wants binding sectoral targets


The Parliament has voted by a large majority in favour of setting binding sectoral renewables targets at EU level, setting the stage for a potential clash with member states. The Commission is due to present a proposal for further legislation on renewable energies in December.

  • Beyond biofuels

Danish Socialist MEP Britta Thomsen’s non-binding report on a ‘road map’ for renewable energies in the EU was adopted during Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg yesterday (25 September). 

The report backs the target of 20% renewables use by 2020 and “urges the Commission to propose a sectoral approach within the legislative framework, setting clear and realistic binding targets for the electricity, transport and heating and cooling sectors”.

Under current plans, the only exisiting EU sectoral target is the 10% biofuels by 2020 target, which is supported by Parliament, “provided that it can be proved that such fuels are produced in a sustainable way”, and that “a fair balance between food and energy production” is maintained, according to the report. 

  • Member states’ potential

Setting binding targets for the use of other kinds of renewable energies in electricity, transport and heating/cooling is contrary to the preferences of some member states, who argue that differing climatic and geographical conditions across the EU mean that some states will be at a disadvantage in terms of meeting the targets. 

Italy, for example, recently sent a letter to EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, stating that the country will be unable to produce more than 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

But the report insists that while differing national potentials can be taken into account, “renewable energy sources are abundant on our planet”. Parliament wants the Commission to adopt a strict approval and monitoring process for the member states’ National Action Plans (NAPs) on renewables, which would be required as part of the implementation of the upcoming legislation.

Using nuclear energy as a low-carbon substitute for renewables – an idea favoured by France, which relies on nuclear for 70% of its electricity – is unacceptable to a majority of MEPs.

  • Markets and money

The Thomsen report also calls for more favourable market conditions and grid access for renewables, an issue that is closely tied to discussions on the liberalisation of EU energy markets (EURACTIV 13/09/07).

On the issue of financing renewables, Parliament appeared to sidestep the sensitive issue of an EU-wide harmonised renewables support structure (which the report says should be a ‘long-term’ objective), and called instead for a continuation of existing national support schemes. 

The report does recommend, however, that “revenues generated from (emissions trading) auctioning and research funds should be used for research into renewable sources of energy, including promising and challenging sources, such as osmosis energy, tidal energy, wave energy, concentrated solar power, high altitude wind power, laddermill energy and algae fuel technology”.  


Renewable energy groups hailed Parliament's vote as a step in the right direction. 

EWEA, the European Wind Energy Association, believes Parliament "has sent a very clear and strong signal to the European Commission and member states". 

Moreover, the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) urged the Commission to "give itself the means to monitor the implementation of (National) Action Plans and not leave to member states the margin of manoeuvre to implement them or not". 


The issue of sectoral targets is central to the debate on the promotion of renewable energies, which currently account for just under 7% of the EU's energy mix.

In its January 2007 'Renewables Roadmap', the Commission proposed new, legally binding targets for renewables (20% by 2020) and for biofuels in transport (10% by 2020). But the EU executive appears to be opposed to setting any other sector-specific targets, arguing that member states need flexibility in promoting renewables according to their potential and priorities (see our LinksDossier).

This 'flexible' approach reflects the preference of member states as expressed in the March 2007 Presidency Conclusions.


  • 5 Dec 2007 (tentative): Commission expected to propose legislation on renewable energies.

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