EU ministers provisionally agreed on Monday (27 June) to ensure the share of renewables in the bloc’s energy mix reaches 40% by 2030 – despite the fact that the objective is now rendered outdated by new proposals tabled since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Read the original article in French here.
The EU’s 27 energy ministers agreed on “general guidelines” for revising the Renewable Energy Directive, a centrepiece of the European Commission’s ‘Fit for 55’ package tabled in July last year, which aims for a 55% cut in emissions by 2030.
Renewable energies are “the backbone of our efforts” to increase Europe’s dependence from Russian fossil fuels, said Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. Portugal agreed that renewables offered “the only real prospect for freeing ourselves from dependence on Russia.”
However, the agreement is only a partial victory for France, which set out in its EU presidency programme to “accelerate the development of renewable energies.”
The 40% target agreed upon falls short of the 45% figure that the European Commission tabled on 18 May as part of its REPowerEU plan adopted in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The French EU Presidency acknowledged this, saying the Council agreed “to proceed in two steps” and will return to the issue under the Czech EU Presidency in the year’s second half.
Reservations on sub-targets
While EU ministers were broadly happy with the agreement, nearly all expressed reservations about the details.
Poland, while giving its blessing to the Council’s general agreement, called on EU authorities to “take into account national differences” in achieving the sectoral sub-targets in areas like transport or heating and cooling.
Most states echoed that sentiment. According to Estonia, “the sub-targets should be left to the discretion of the member states.” The same was said by Latvia, Finland, Romania and Slovakia, who asked that “everyone should be able to choose their [energy] mix in terms of cost-effectiveness.”
By contrast, the Dutch called for the sub-targets to be “binding” and not left “to the discretion of member states” – particularly when it comes to green hydrogen and so-called renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBOs).
According to the updated directive, EU member states “shall ensure that the contribution of RFNBOs for energy and non-energy end uses represents 35% of hydrogen used for energy, and non-energy end uses in the industry in 2030.”
Slovakia and Greece asked that the target be lowered from 35% to 30%, while Hungary proposed decreasing it even further to 25%.
Still, Simson defended the 35% target, saying it would make the bloc “a front-runner in the renewable hydrogen economy.”
The situation is similar for the use of renewables in heating and cooling. Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, in particular, do not agree with the targets set out in the directive, which provides for an increase in renewables for the sector by at least 0.8% per year between 2021 and 2025, and then by 1.1% per year from 2026 to 2030.
A clear framework for investments
Most EU countries called for a transparent investment framework to meet such objectives.
“We have to be specific to create visibility for investors,” said Claude Turmes, the energy minister of Luxembourg.
Some, including Denmark and Croatia, even called for a more inclusive approach to the deployment of renewables at the EU level. However, they did not join Germany in urging the Czech Republic, which will take over the six-month rotating EU Council presidency in July, to insist on “accelerated [and simplified] issuance of permits.”
Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Luxembourg have already said they would back Germany on the permitting issue.
Czechia also backed the general guidelines before final trialogue talks with the European Parliament starting in September. “In order to be ambitious, sufficient flexibility must be offered to take into account the need to have an efficient transition, especially in terms of cost,” the Czech minister said.
The final talks will centre around the Commission’s updated target of 45%, broadly supported by the European Parliament.