Widespread support in EU Parliament for 45% renewable energy target

"With Putin’s war in Ukraine, it is crystal clear that Europe must become more independent from fossil energy – more than ever before," said Markus Pieper, a German MEP who is the Parliament's lead lawmaker on the renewable energy directive. [© European Union 2022 - Source : EP]

In reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there is growing support across the European Parliament to increase the EU’s 2030 renewable energy target and break away from Russian fossil fuels, lawmakers from across the political spectrum told EURACTIV.

Currently, just over 22% of Europe’s energy comes from renewables. In July, the European Commission proposed amending the EU’s renewable energy directive to increase this share to 40% by 2030.

Now, in response to Russia’s invasion, the European Parliament is set to push for this target to be increased to 45%.

“With Putin’s war in Ukraine, it is crystal clear that Europe must become more independent from fossil energy – more than ever before,” said Markus Pieper, a German conservative lawmaker who is steering the Parliament’s position on the EU’s renewable energy law.

“It’s like a wake-up call – we have to focus more on renewable energy because it’s the only energy which makes us independent,” he told EURACTIV.

“This is why I have proposed raising the 2030 EU’s renewable energy target from 32% to 45% by 2030,” he said.

The right-wing German MEP, who is part of the European People’s Party (EPP), had already suggested amendments to improve the ambition of the European Commission’s proposal, which he presented in mid-February.

But he is now going further because of the war in Ukraine. “I think this is very important to signal that we have to become more independent from Russia and bring energy autonomy and security to Europe,” he said.

Key lawmaker tables radical overhaul of EU’s renewable energy directive

Plans to speed up permits for wind farms, promote biofuels in transport, and boost imports of green hydrogen were presented on Tuesday (15 January) by a lawmaker tasked with drawing up European Parliament’s position on the EU renewable energy directive.

Pieper’s views are shared across much of the European Parliament.

Pascal Canfin, a centrist lawmaker who chairs the assembly’s influential environment committee, is one of them.

“We might find a majority in the Parliament that could be supported by the Commission as well to move the renewable targets from 40 to 45%,” the Frenchman told EURACTIV.

Canfin’s political faction, the centrist Renew Europe, supports the 45% target, he told EURACTIV, pointing to the European Commission’s recent plan to break away from Russian fossil fuels. Called REPowerEU, the plan has a heavy emphasis on building up Europe’s renewable energy capacity and boosting energy efficiency measures.

The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) are also in favour.

Nicolas Gonzalez Casares, a Spanish S&D lawmaker who is shadow rapporteur on the renewables directive, told EURACTIV: “The war in Ukraine and the need to eliminate our energy dependency on Russia make it necessary to make an extra effort to deploy renewable energies.”

In addition to a 45% renewable energy target, Casares is calling for higher sub-targets in the law, speeding up administrative processes and improving interconnections to share energy between countries.

This is also an objective defended by Markus Pieper. “I propose, for example, more cross-border energy projects in order to strengthen the synergies of the internal market and to create a genuine pan-European energy market,” the German lawmaker told EURACTIV.

One of the ideas put forward in the Pieper report is to label renewable energy projects and related grid infrastructure as “priority projects” benefiting from fast-track approval procedures.

This means biodiversity laws could be sidelined in some circumstances to make way for new wind or solar farms. “If new installations are in the ‘public interest’ of energy supply, a single hamster must not prevent this as long as the animal species as a whole is not endangered. I propose that the EU requirements be adapted accordingly,” Pieper said.

The Left also told EURACTIV that they support an increased renewable target. They are going even further and calling for a 50% target.

Just pipping them at the post for the highest ambition are the Greens, who told EURACTIV they were aiming for a 51% renewable energy target.

“The current situation calls for an urgent ramping up of renewables and energy efficiency to reduce our reliance on all fossil fuels. This should also mean urgent measures, such as a higher heat pump and PV rollout than in commissions communication this week,” the Green rapporteur for the law Ville Niinistö told EURACTIV.

However, not all groups in the European Parliament are behind the idea to increase ambition on renewables.

Anna Zalewska, a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), said the European Commission’s proposal of 40% renewables in Europe’s energy mix by 2030 was already ambitious.

Calls to raise the target to 45% seem “like a hurried suggestion that was written by politicians alone, without the proper consultation of engineers and appropriate stakeholders,” she told EURACTIV.

But other political groups seem determined to stand by it, with Canfin suggesting that the war in Ukraine is making EU countries think again about renewable energies as a strategic objective for Europe as well as individual countries.

“Up to now, France hasn’t put renewables at the same strategic level as nuclear. Now, it is changing, it’s very clear in [President Emmanuel] Macron’s view that we need to be as ambitious on renewables as France has been for nuclear,” he told EURACTIV.

“That’s why we are in favour of a new permitting framework to speed up” construction of new wind and solar projects, he said.

Wind power has struggled to pick up in France, with permits for new projects frequently delayed by legal challenges. As a result, not a single offshore wind farm has been built in France to date.

France's ambitious offshore strategy faces obstacles

As the European Commission prepares to publish its offshore renewable energy strategy, France’s wind farm projects – already delayed compared to its European neighbours – face opposition from fishermen already operating in difficult maritime environments because of Brexit. EURACTIV France reports.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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