IN DEPTH: Kjaer in 2030 plea

Christian Kjaer has pleaded for the EU to extend binding renewables targets to 2030, rather than taking the market-based approach advocated by the electricity sector.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) boss calls the creation of market-based systems “empty words” unless such a move supports the development of clean-energy technologies.

Industry body Eurelectric wants the “targets for everything approach” replaced by “a broad framework that allows the market to work, thereby encouraging those investments that make the most economic sense and reducing the costs of the low-carbon energy transition”.

Kjaer, who stands down as chief executive in April, rejects this approach. “Since I arrived at EWEA some 11 years ago, we have been calling for the creation of an internal market for electricity, the necessary infrastructure and fair competition. We now seem to be moving away from achieving that vision,” he says.

The current EU target of generating 20% of energy from renewables runs out in 2020 and as yet there is nothing to replace it. Developers and green campaigners fear that without a similar target for 2030, the impetus to invest in renewables will be lost.

“Historically, I think people who don’t want targets are people who don’t want change,” Kjaer says. “So if you want things to remain the same, then okay, you don’t need targets. But if you don’t want to admit that, then you better come up with a proposal as to what is needed if we are going to have a larger share of renewables in the energy mix.”

He says the arguments that carbon markets should be driving renewables investments are logical, in theory. The problem is, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which is intended to spur clean-energy investment, “doesn’t work right now”.

Kjaer adds: “The European Commission has so far proposed to cut 900 million allowances out of the system... We believe it should have been two billion rather than 900 million, because if you don’t take out enough allowances to address the shortfall, it’s not going to have an impact on the carbon price.”

This “backloading” plan means fewer allowances will be offered in auctions in the short term, while demand remains low amid the economic slowdown.

“So we agree with backloading, but don’t expect it to resolve anything because if this is all you do, there is no point in having it,” Kjaer says.

“So we support it, if the intention is to buy time to fix the ETS with structural measures. Backloading will buy you some time until the patient needs to go into hospital. The problem is, they need the ETS to go into surgery as fast as possible, otherwise it’s going to die.”

Kjaer says the differences between the renewables and carbon-reduction agendas are becoming bigger.

He is scathing about world governments, blaming them for the “pathetic state” of international climate change negotiations, but acknowledges: “There is no doubt... that politicians are very aware — certainly in Europe, but also in the US and China — of the potential renewables have, including positive changes to the existing power supply.

“We have an incredibly good case with wind energy, which is something to keep in mind in the current challenging environment for the industry, and looking into 2013, which is going to be another very difficult year.

“There has been a fundamental change in the market, but the fundamentals of the technology have not changed.”