EU power giants in 40% GHG call

A group of leading European electricity firms have handed energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger a ‘manifesto’ calling for EU and national policymakers to adopt an economy-wide, binding 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target of at least 40% compared to 1990 levels.

Trade body Eurelectric outlined a series of recommendations in its document which calls for the adoption of a more coherent European approach to forming new energy and climate policies – reducing costs while increasing their impact.

Oettinger, speaking at the handover of the manifesto, said he favoured Europe going for a 40% GHG reduction target “not 50% or 60% which isn’t realistic and would be an arrogant move”. He added that “Europe alone can’t save the world. What is needed is a globally binding climate agreement in Paris next year”.

He rejected criticism of the EU’s 2030 climate and energy proposals, which suggest the 40% reduction, and an EU renewables share of at least 27%, but no individual country goals.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), together with other industry groups, has slammed the 27% renewables target as “weak” and a “capitulation to anti-renewables lobby groups”, which ignores the EU’s own parliament, which last month backed a 30% goal at its committee stage.

Oettinger tells Recharge that “offshore wind is one of the main renewable energy sources in Europe. At the moment it is ‘cost-intensive’, but we are sure that offshore wind generation will play an important role in the next decade in Europe”.

Hans ten Berge, secretary general of Eurelectric, said the 40% target “will not be easy and is a compromise in Europe. However, if we can achieve this it means that the European electricity industry will be leading the world when it comes to decarbonisation”.

EU scenarios envisaged some €1 trillion ($1.35tn) of total European energy sector investment, including new electricity generation assets, new storage, smart technologies, new grids, energy efficiency, and research by 2020.

However, this target has proved unrealistic due to economic austerity across Europe and the unfavourable investment climate caused by regulatory uncertainty and adverse political moves, both at the EU and among member states.

“We need to phase out all energy subsidies for 2020 and beyond in both renewables and from all other energy sources,” says Oluf Ulseth, chairman of Eurelectric energy policy and generation committee, and CEO of Energi Norge.

In addition the manifesto advocates extending the EU’s emissions trading scheme to other industrial sectors after 2020,  increasing investment in modernising Europe’s electricity networks, and removing regulated electricity prices that “distort” the market.

The manifesto claims to be “in line” with the initiative put forward last year by an influential coalition of 12 utility chief executives calling themselves the Magritte Group, which called for renewables subsidies to be scrapped altogether, arguing they are pushing up power prices and distorting the market.

Members of the Magritte Group include the bosses of France’s GDF Suez, Germany’s E.ON, Spain’s Iberdrola and Italy’s Enel.