EC kick-starts energy debate

The European Commission has kick-started the debate on the EU’s climate and energy policies for 2020-30 with a Green Paper outlining plans to encourage renewables and cut greenhouse gases.

The Green Paper, published today, is the first step in gauging the opinions of member states, the European Parliament, industry groups and non-governmental organisations on EU objectives for 2030.

The document raises a set of questions, including:

  • what type, nature and level of climate and energy targets should be set for 2030;
  • how to attain coherence between different policy instruments;
  • how the energy system can best contribute to EU competitiveness; and
  • how member states' different capacities to act can be taken into account.

A consultation period runs until 2 July. On the basis of the views expressed by member states, EU institutions and stakeholders, the commission intends to table the a 2030 framework for climate and energy policies by the end of this year.

EU energy commissioner GüntherOettinger says: “The new framework must take into account the consequences of the economic crisis, but it must also be ambitious enough to meet the long-term goal of cutting emissions by 80-95% by 2050.”

Climate action commissoner Connie Hedegaard adds: “Europe’s dependence on foreign fossil fuels is growing every year. That means more expensive and unaffordable energy bills for Europeans. That is not very wise. It’s obviously not wise for the climate, but it’s also not wise for our economy and our competitiveness.

“We have targets for 2020, but for most investors 2020 is around the corner. It’s time to define the targets for 2030. The sooner we do that, the more certainty we get to our companies and our investors. And the more ambitious these targets are, the better for the climate.”

The commission says some countries will have to do more to meet 2020 renewables targets. Failure to meet those targets would have “major consequences”.

The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) says filling the policy vacuum from 2020 onwards is crucial to reduce regulatory risk and investor uncertainty, while creating jobs, restoring growth and sustaining innovation to 2030.

The EREC says the Green Paper marks the beginning of the process of establishing post-2020 policies to lead to a truly sustainable energy future built on renewables.

“The objectives of decarbonisation, energy security and international competitiveness in the EU will neeed a ‘hat-trick’ achieving the three goals of a combined renewable energy, greenhouse gas [reduction] and energy-efficiency framework for 2030,” says EREC president Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes.

“In their discussion at the European Council in May, heads of state and governments will now need to provide clear guidance so as to put the EU on the right track for 2030.”

Electricity industry association Eurelectric says the new policy package must be coherent, giving a smooth transition to 2030 and beyond. It calls for a package of decisions that link an agreement on carbon emissions reduction, the future of renewables beyond 2020 and the internal energy market.

“Today’s Green Paper should be the starting point of a robust debate on a strong energy and climate policy package for 2030. This package must be agreed as soon as possible – ideally before summer 2014,” says Eurelectric secretary-general Hans ten Berge.

“For our sector, which mainly invests big and long-term, 2020 is tomorrow. Clarity on the 2030 framework is urgently needed to ensure that electricity companies can invest to put the sector on track for Europe’s transition towards a low-carbon energy system.”

The commission also published a report assessing member states’ progress towards achieving their 2020 renewables targets, and a consultative document on the future of carbon capture and storage.