In an announcement awaited by industry, the European Commission has proposed the non-binding objective of increasing the share of renewable energy to 27% of the EU’s energy consumption in 2030. However, at the same time, an ambitious and binding target emerged: for the EU to reduce by 2030 domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below the 1990 level. An extraordinary target or a disappointment?
It has now been clarified by the Commission that the 40% target should translate into particular binding targets for each Member State. That’s all well and good. But how will that be divided between countries with competing interests and emission conditions, with France 75 % non-CO2 nuclear and Poland 85% all-CO2 coal? In some other countries, like Germany, which recently ruled out the nuclear option altogether, the binding CO2 target will simply translate into the renewable energy share.
It is worthwhile noting that the EU 27% renewable energy target means roughly a 45% renewable electricity target, which seems like a very ambitious plan for this region. Although the 27% figure is supposed to be non-binding, the Commission’s soft actions like guidelines and recommendations may serve very well to promote it. Combined with the Commission’s power to control public aid, they may be used to make the 27% RES objective binding in practice.
Can the Commission please everyone then? With the UK in favor of a binding greenhouse gas reduction target, Germany supporting renewable electricity, and Poland focused on its coal industry and a shale gas plan that is lagging behind, the Commission is wise to balance its objectives.
A surprising idea that has been floated (although probably not a serious one) is satisfying the 2030 greenhouse reduction obligations by increasing forestation. With large areas excluded from agricultural use in some EU countries, their forestation might provide a cost-effective solution.
Finally, let us not forget that the targets for 2020 remain – the 2009/28 Renewables Directive sums up all the EU Member States’ obligations up to a 20% share of renewables in the total EU energy consumption in 2020. How this will ultimately be enforced remains to be seen, and will tell us a lot about the significance of the newly announced plans.