Parliament backed a mandatory target to reduce the EU’s energy consumption by 14.5% by 2030. Photo: © Aliya Fahrtdinova / Shutterstock.com
European Union prepares for winter
In September, the European Parliament voted on several proposals to address the energy crisis. Meanwhile the EU Commission proposed a new law to manage energy prices.
When it comes to the renewable energy target the European Parliament voted in favour of a 45% target for the EU’s energy mix by 2030. To achieve the EU-wide goal, each EU country will have to implement a minimum of two cross-border electricity projects, or a minimum of three for those with an annual electricity consumption of more than 100 terawatt-hours (TWh).
The new target is an increase from the 40% target endorsed by the member states in June. However, that endorsement did not take into account the REPowerEU plan (presented in May) which revised the EU’s goals upwards. The Greens and the left tried to push for an even higher renewable target of 55–56% by 2030 in order to reach 100% renewables by 2040. There were also sub-targets for sectors such as transport, buildings, and district heating and cooling. The text includes an increase from 13% to 16% in the greenhouse gas emission reduction target for transport, as well as a 5.7% share of renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBO) in the fuel market by 2030, as presented in the Commission’s REPowerEU programme.
However, the REPowerEU goals, including the definition of “go-to areas” and faster permitting procedures for renewable energies, were not included in this version of the directive. There is an aim to merge the two revision procedures during final talks with EU member states later in the year. There are still important aspects lacking from the proposals. There are no binding national renewable energy targets for EU countries. The definition of renewable energy includes biomass. Although the Parliament text introduces a phase-down of biomass, it lacks an end date, which did not satisfy environmentalists and the left, who called for a complete phase out by 2030.
When it comes to the vote on energy savings, the Parliament backed a mandatory target to reduce the EU’s energy consumption by 14.5% by 2030. In its REPowerEU plan, the European Commission proposed raising the EU’s energy efficiency savings target to 13% by 2030, up from the 9% goal it had initially tabled a year before. Measures include an annual energy savings rate of 2% for the energy savings obligation. The level of the target is not ambitious enough to stay within the limits of the Paris Agreement. However, since there was no other target level on the table to be voted on it is a step in the right direction. “We are in a crisis where Putin is shutting off gas.
One of our most effective answers to this is energy efficiency,” said Niels Fuglsang, an MEP from Denmark from the socialist S&D Group, who steers the Parliament’s position on the proposal. “Parliament has today voted for ambitious and binding energy efficiency targets for the EU and for individual member states,” Fuglsang said after the vote. The Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) 2012 is in the process of being revised as part of EU plans to cut emissions by more than half by 2030. While they voted in favour of the amended directive, the Greens said the Parliament could have aimed higher.
At the same time, “it was very important to us that we go into the trilogue with a strong mandate,” explained Jutta Paulus, a German MEP and the Greens’ negotiator on the directive. However, efficiency advocates are worried that EU member states will not follow the Parliament’s lead. There have been difficulties gaining acceptance for energy savings targets and there will be further negotiations with reluctant EU countries. In the past, EU countries have missed their European objectives for 2020. During the last EU Council meeting in July, some EU countries attempted to water down the revised directive, until a last-minute intervention by Germany.
With the plenary vote cleared for both the RED and EED directives, the Parliament can now enter negotiations with the Council and the Commission as part of so-called “trilogue” talks to finalise the updates. Czechia currently holds the EU presidency and will chair negotiations between the Parliament, Commission and EU member states to finalise the law before the end of the year. In addition to updating the RED and EED directives the EU Commission has outlined draft proposals to tackle the high energy prices gripping Europe, including a mandatory target for reducing electricity use, capping the revenues of energy firms, and recycling the money raised to help vulnerable households.
The indicative target requires EU member states “to lower overall electricity consumption” from households, for example through public information campaigns or tenders for “energy not consumed” as well as “a mandatory target of at least a 5% reduction in net electricity consumption during peak price hours”. “Saving energy is the key thing to do right now,” said Bram Claeys from the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), a clean energy think-tank. “It’s one of the few actions that can still have an impact this winter”. For Claeys, the proposal for peak reduction is particularly important. “It is exactly the way to go; demand-side flexibility and storage need to take over the role gas power plants are playing in the power system.”