EU ministers back 2030 RE goal

Ministers from eight EU states including Germany and France have made a strong call to the European Commission to set a renewable energy target for 2030, in opposition to the stance taken by the UK and others which advocate just an emissions goal.

“A target for renewable energy is crucial to provide certainty that can ensure cost-effective investments in energy systems that will strengthen the internal market for energy,” the group of energy and environment ministers say.

They made the call in a letter to Connie Hedegaard,  the EU commissioner for climate action, and Gunther Oettinger, commissioner for energy.

The letter is signed by ministers from Austria,  Belgium,  Denmark,  France,  Germany,  Ireland,  Italy and Portugal.  A clean energy goal is “crucial” to providing the certainty that industry needs for cost-effective investments, the ministers argue.

The signatories include Germany’s new economics and energy minister Sigmar Gabriel, the French energy minister Philippe Martin, and the Italian environment minister Andrea Orlando.

The UK’s energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey, as well as some industry associations, have said that they favour a single binding 2030 goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“We need a technology neutral approach to how individual countries meet their emissions targets. We will therefore oppose a renewable energy target at an EU level as inflexible and unnecessary,”  Davey said in a statement.

“The UK’s view is that a single, greenhouse gas target is the most effective way of combating climate change, keeping energy prices down and strengthening energy security. A binding renewables target would not allow individual countries the flexibility to meet their emissions target,” the Department of Energy and Climate Change said.

The UK’s position has appeared to gain support over recent weeks, with EC president Jose Manuel Barroso,  also said to be in favour of an emissions-only goal – a 40% reduction on 1990 levels, up from the current 20% by 2020 – but no binding targets for renewables and energy efficiency.

Hedegaard has previously backed a renewable energy target,  but did not mention the issue at all in a comment piece published yesterday on her website calling for “bold climate action”.

She says the commission is doing lots of behind-the-scenes analysis and political work discussing how many targets there should be and the interaction between them.

A White Paper on the issue — which will also cover the future structure of the ETS and renewables subsidies — will be released on 22 January. The document is due to be discussed, and potentially approved, by the EU heads of state in March.

However, Poland remains the biggest obstacle. The country, which depends upon coal for 90% of its energy, has called for the 2030 targets not to be finalised until 2015.