Energy Union Package: Key points & industry reaction

The European Commission has released details of its 'Energy Union' vision to reboot Europe's energy policy and proposals for the crucial UN climate change talks in December.

The Energy Union Package, announced today by Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, includes a binding emissions reduction target of at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, along with a host of commitments for the EU to become ‘the world leader in renewable energy’.

The 21-page document contains a dizzying list of measures – spanning renewables and energy-efficiency, gas supplies, legislation, finance, market design, a 10% power-interconnection target, R&D, and climate policy.

Here’s what you need to know…

Energy Union Package: Key points

The agreement on the 2030 climate and energy framework has defined the EU commitment of an at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990. “This makes an ambitious contribution to the international climate negotiations with a view to achieving a binding climate agreement in 2015,” says the document.

The ‘Paris Protocol‘ communication, also published today, highlights the importance of a legally-binding agreement by the end of the year to keep global warming below 2°C.

– The European Commission plans to bring forward its new Renewable Energy Package to 2016-17 to support Europe’s post-2020 goal of a minimum 27% share for renewables by the end of the next decade, and to guarantee that the 2030 climate and energy targets are met cost-effectively.

– Specifically on renewables, the Commission reiterated its support for “market-based schemes that address market failures, ensure cost-effectiveness and avoid overcompensation or distortion”. It added that it will “facilitate co-operation and convergence of national support schemes leading to more cross-border opening” for renewable output.

– A minimum interconnection target has been set for electricity at 10% of installed electricity production capacity, which should be achieved by 2020, with a view to increase to 15% by 2030. Twelve EU countries, including the UK, remain below the 10% interconnection target, according to the Commission.

– The paper states that the development of new infrastructure – especially interconnections – “needs to lower the cost of integrating renewable electricity into the internal energy market”.

– It concludes that the EU needs to invest in advanced, sustainable alternative fuels, including biofuel production processes, and in the bio-economy more generally. “This allows us to retain technological and industrial leadership and to meet climate change objectives,” the document reads.

Energy Union Package: Industry reaction

– Thomas Becker, CEO of EWEA

These are positive signs coming out of the Commission. We’re seeing recommendations for a shift away from a fossil fuel-dominated economy to more sustainable, secure and decarbonised sources of energy.

Increased interconnection between Member States and investment in the continent’s ageing electricity grids are of paramount importance. Above all the Energy Union must include cross-border cooperation to bind national grids together with more efficient technology that will allow nations to tap indigenous resources in remote areas and transfer power to Europe’s densely populated cities.

– Brook Riley, climate justice and energy campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe

It’s frustrating to see the European Commission say it’s serious about tackling climate change, but gloss over the inadequacy of its own measures to transform Europe’s energy system.

The target European governments have agreed on for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is based on outdated science, and assumes a 50:50 chance at best of staying below 2°C global temperature increase. People must not be duped into believing the EU is taking genuine action on climate change.

 Susann Scherbarth, climate justice campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe

Europe has huge potential to go far beyond the 40% emissions cut it has announced for 2030 without relying on international offsetting or carbon trading in any way. It is essential that it sets out a stronger emission reduction pathway up to 2020 and beyond.

By locking in inadequate climate action Europe is threatening lives and livelihoods across the world. The EU, and others like the US, are not doing their fair share given the challenge we face and the responsibility they have to reduce emissions at home and give financial and technical support to those who need it urgently. 

– Rémi Gruet, chief executive, Ocean Energy Europe

The Energy Union communication presents actions to speed up the transformation of the energy landscape through industries where Europe enjoys a competitive edge. It correctly highlights how the transition can create great opportunities for jobs and growth. Clearly, ocean energy technologies tick all of the Energy Union boxes and will be of strategic importance for creating a long-lasting and meaningful Energy Union.

Rhian Kelly, business environment director, CBI 

The EU has laid its cards on the table: these are ambitious, but achievable, goals if the right policies are in place. This should encourage other nations to step up to the mark to create an agreement at the Paris Summit later this year that supports growth, competitiveness and decarbonisation.

The Energy Union recognises that the more effective way to tackle our shared energy and climate change challenges is for EU member states to work together. An effective Union must support openness, competition and investment, putting the needs of business and consumers at its heart. Importantly, it should support member states’ determination and development of their own energy mix.

– Jennifer Morgan, global director, Climate Program, World Resources Institute

Today the European Union has demonstrated its serious commitment to securing a robust, universal climate agreement this December. While one can discuss the details, the EU makes a strong case for a Paris Protocol that is universal, transparent and dynamic.

In this draft proposal, the EU outlined its emission reduction emissions plans but is less transparent about other climate actions. For instance, the proposal would be stronger with more clarity about how to account for emissions from land use, demonstrating how the accounting methodology will not weaken the integrity of the at least 40% target and about how its actions are ambitious and fair. More information on these elements is vital for the EU to serve as a model example for other countries.

– Richard Black, director, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) 

The EU’s draft international climate pledge doesn’t contain any surprises – essentially it is taking what EU governments decided to do back in October, and putting that package of measures and targets forward into the UN climate convention.

The Energy Union proposals are a bit more interesting and show that in principle the EU doesn’t want to continue with an electricity system dominated by fossil fuels, but switch to the kind of flexible smart low-carbon grid being pioneered in Germany, which should lead to a cheaper and more secure system that’s less dependent on Russia.

But it’s odd that the proposals contain more fine-sounding words than concrete measures on reducing energy waste given that this is a policy no-brainer and, in the UK at least, supported by nearly 90% of the public.

– Dr Alison Doig, principle climate change advisor, Christian Aid

The EU has set a positive tone for the year’s negotiations, calling for a legally binding Paris Protocol and for all major emitters to act first and fastest.

The biggest failing of the EU’s proposal is the lack of support for developing countries. It makes no mention of the long-standing commitment to help provide $100 billion in climate finance by 2020 and it avoids making any commitments of substance beyond 2020.

If the EU and other developed nations arrive in Paris without concrete plans on finance and adaptation then it will be difficult to get developing countries on board. This has to be a priority for negotiations in the coming months.

– Peter Faross, secretary general, UEAPME

The combination of technical and financial support is what UEAPME has been advocating for and is very positive. However, similar incentives should also be fore-seen for SMEs outside the building sectors aiming to become more energy efficient and more sustainable.

The Commission’s proposal will now be discussed in the European Parliament and by the Council.

Luke Nicholls

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