A draft law backed by the European Parliament on January 17 proposes to raise the European Union’s (EU’s) renewable targets to 35% by 2030—substantially higher than a 27% target proposed by the European Commission and EU Council.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted 492–88 (with 107 abstentions) to increase the share of renewable sources in gross final consumption of energy to 35% by 2030. To meet the targets, EU states will be required to set their own national targets and monitor them in line with the draft law that will be overseen by the Energy Union. Member states would be allowed to deviate from the target by no more than 10% under certain conditions.
Significantly, Parliament also wants subsidies for biomass to be designed “to avoid encouraging the unsustainable use of biomass for energy production if there are better industrial or material uses, as carbon captured in wood would be released if it were burned for heating,” the body said. For power generation, that means priority should be given to burning wood wastes and residues.
The body also said it wants to ensure that “prosumers”—consumers who produce power on their premises via rooftop solar photovoltaic or other means—can install energy storage systems without any charges, fees, or taxes. On Wednesday, MEPs urged member states to assess “existing barriers” to prosumers, and “to promote such consumption” so that prosumers—especially households—can generate power without being subject to “unjustified conditions or procedures.”
Parliament on Wednesday also voted 485–132 (with 58 abstentions) on a draft law that establishes a binding EU-level target of a 35% improvement in energy efficiency. Member states will be expected to consider the target on the basis of projected energy consumption in 2030 according to the PRIMES model.
By 2030, each member state will also need to get 12% of energy consumed in transport from renewables. Significantly, the measure caps contribution of “first generation” biofuels—made from food and feed crops—to 2017 levels. MEPs also banned the use of palm oil from 2021.
MEPs additionally voted to require that 90% of fuel stations along the roads of the Trans-European Networks should be equipped with “high power” recharging points for electric vehicles by 2022.
To meet the targets, EU states will be required to set their own national targets and monitor them in line with the draft law that will be overseen by the Energy Union.
The European Parliament, composed of 751 MEPs who are directly elected by voters in EU member states, and the EU Council are part of an essentially bicameral institution that carries out legislative functions for the 28–member country bloc. The European Commission functions as its executive branch.
However, several EU member countries are wary of the new targets, and Parliament’s new measures will likely set the scene for tough negotiations with the European Council, which will establish when these targets will be introduced in EU regulations.
The EU’s share of energy consumed from renewables soared to 16.7% in 2015, and the region is on track to reach its 20% target for 2020. EU member states agreed the target should be hiked to 27% by 2030 during negotiations in 2014. Last December, EU energy ministers that form the EU Council left that target in place.
Meanwhile, last year, while the European Commission suggested increasing targets for energy efficiency from 27% to 30%—an idea that the Council ultimately backed—several Central and Eastern European countries voiced their strong opposition.
Europe’s power sector has largely accepted the region’s accelerated transition to renewables to address climate change, air pollution, and depletion of natural resources. In December, pan-European power sector trade group EURELECTRIC laid out a long-term vision that commits the power sector to take a lead role in Europe’s decarbonization efforts toward the Paris Agreement. The vision, which EURELECTRIC said was backed by national associations and chief executives from all major power companies in Europe, calls for more investment in carbon-neutral power sources, digitalization, demand-side response, and grid reinforcement.
—Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine)