New European energy goals show ‘lack of ambition for renewables’

European CommissionRenewable energy trade bodies have branded the European Commission’s (EC’s) 2030 climate change targets as having a “lack of ambition” and have called on the UK Government to set out its own vision for alternative power.

The commission has called for a binding target to reduce Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% of 1990 levels by 2030.

But the EC resisted calls to impose renewable energy production targets for individual countries, instead opting for a 27% target for the continent as a whole.

Britain had campaigned for a “technology-neutral” approach, which would let it use nuclear power and even shale gas to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, while countries such as Germany had pushed for targets for each member state.

Connie Hedegaard, the EC’s climate change commissioner, defended the targets, which will now need to be approved by the European Union heads of state.

She said:

“A 40% emissions reduction is the most cost-effective target for the EU and it takes account of our global responsibility.

“If all other regions were equally ambitious about tackling climate change, the world would be in significantly better shape.”

Energy Secretary Ed Davey added:

“It’s good news that the Commission has listened to the UK argument that countries must be allowed to decarbonise in the cheapest way possible.

“However, the UK remains concerned about any renewables target especially as the debate within Parliament and the British green movement has moved on to technology neutral options like a decarbonisation target as the most cost effective and practical way of fighting climate change.”

But renewable energy trade bodies warned that the targets lacked ambition.

Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive at the Renewable Energy Association, said:

“We’re about to find out what happens when theoretical economics meets the real world. Theory suggests a ‘technology neutral’ approach is economically efficient.

“But experience shows that binding renewables targets do two things: first, they give a major long-term boost to investor confidence, helping accelerate market growth and technology cost reduction; and second, politics frequently trumps economics in the real world, and when politicians go wobbly on renewables, the targets help keep investment flowing.”

The targets were welcomed by business groups.

Katja Hall, CBI Chief Policy Director, said:

“This package puts us on the right path to delivering a competitive, low-carbon future. It’s important that member states have flexibility to decarbonise in the most cost-effective way.”

Stephanie Pfeifer, Chief Executive at the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, added:

“A 40% emissions reduction target is the minimum necessary to keep Europe on course for a low-carbon economy as outlined in the EU’s 2050 Roadmap. Achieving this target is well within member state capabilities and crucial for long-term policy certainty.”

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