Commission gives boost to renewables, but more post-2020 ambition needed

This week saw the European Commission (EC) issuing a communication on renewable energy, which examines the current 2020 framework for the development of the sector and outlines policy options for the post-2020 phase. A number of organisations including the European Renewable Energy Council have welcomed the EC’s latest stance, but are concerned more still needs to be done.
Commission gives boost to renewables, but more post-2020 ambition needed

With its new Renewable Energy Strategy unveiled in Brussels (Belgium) on Wednesday, the EC presented major reasons to favour legally binding renewable energy targets for 2030. The Strategy notably says that "strong renewables growth to 2030 could generate over three million jobs" and that "a continuation of an EU-wide specific renewable energy framework post-2020[...] would result in a net GDP growth by 0.36-0.40% by 2030".

According to the EC, renewables growth over the coming decades "increases our security of supply" and would lead to savings for the European Union in 2050 “between Euros 518 and 550 billion…[on]... EU expenditure for fossil fuel imports".

"European Ministers must turn this message into action and back a renewable energy target for 2030, as supported by the Strategy's Impact Assessment", commented Stephane Bourgeois, Head of Regulatory Affairs of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) in Brussels. "A legally binding renewable energy target for 2030 is crucial if we want to foster Europe's leadership in wind energy, and in particular offshore wind".

"More trading of renewable electricity within the EU is exactly what we need – we all need to be importing and exporting our renewables. The sun is always shining and wind always blowing somewhere in Europe, and a single market for renewables will make the green energy switch work," said Sir Graham Watson MEP (Chairman of the Climate Parliament) and a Liberal Democrat MEP.

Lack of ambition

The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) also welcomed the Commission’s focus on implementing and enforcing the 2020 target for renewables, but regrets its lack of ambition when it comes to a 2030 agenda. Renewable energy growth will slump after 2020 if a post-2020 policy framework is not developed, it warns.

“The Commission is pushing for rigorous implementation and enforcement of the Renewable Energy Directive, and rightly so. We must make sure that, even in the current economic crisis, we meet our 2020 objectives, and most importantly for our industry the 20% target for renewables”, says Arthouros Zervos, President of the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC).

The communication acknowledges that long-term policy clarity is a prerequisite for ensuring the necessary level of investment, but it remains vague with regard to a post-2020 framework. “The accompanying Impact Assessment clearly shows binding targets for renewables as the option offering most security to the industry towards 2030, however, the communication itself falls short of bringing this to the fore of the political debate”, comments the Secretary General of EREC, Josche Muth. EREC and its members are calling for a binding target of 45% renewables for 2030.

“Meanwhile, the communication fails to address the heating and cooling sector, where best practice examples of how to incentivise the sector through policy do exist today. What we need is a dedicated action plan for renewable heating and cooling to be proposed by the Commission”, Zervos adds.

The communication draws attention to recent reforms in EU Member States that have had detrimental effects on the renewable energy market and have undermined investor confidence in the sector. “At EREC, we welcome the upcoming guidelines on the reform of support schemes as they will prevent retroactive changes in the future”, Muth states, going on to say: “We are ready to bring forward our expertise and help the Commission to identify existing obstacles and best practices in this area.”

Sir Graham Watson also warns that Europe has plenty of work to do if it is to meet its future renewable targets. "We need the capacity for long-distance electricity transmission, and by and large our power lines currently stop at national borders. The next EU budget is due to put €9 billion towards cross-border energy links, but that money is being squeezed. The EU also needs to get countries importing renewable energy from outside our bloc, wherever it is most abundant and cheapest – whether it be Norwegian hydro or Saharan solar," he explains. "Europe desperately needs to set a post-2020 renewable energy target as soon as possible, including a target specifically for electricity. And the European Parliament elections should not be used as an excuse for the Commission to do nothing until 2014."

The EWEA also took the opportunity on Wednesday to highlight another area of concern. It backs the European Commission's criticism of recent abrupt changes in support mechanisms for renewable energies in several EU Member States: "Retroactive changes in support mechanisms undermine investor confidence in the sector and could put the 2020 renewable energy targets at risk. We share the Commission's concerns, but the Commission must now take all legal means to prevent this", said Bourgeois.

Commenting on the EC's new renewables strategy, Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger concludes: "We should continue to develop renewable energy and promote innovative solutions. We have to do it in a cost-efficient way. This means: producing wind and solar power where it makes economic sense and trading it within Europe, as we do for other products and services."

For additional information:

European Commission – Energy

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