EU raises 2030 renewable energy target, outlines palm oil phase out

Negotiators from the European Parliament and Member States have this morning (June 14) struck a deal to raise the target for the proportion of energy it will source from renewables by 2030 to 32%, up from the previous 27% goal.

The Renewable Energy Directive deal, which was agreed shortly before 4am, after 18 months of negotiations, included the legally-binding aim alongside an upward review clause by 2023. 

“This new ambition will help us meet our Paris Agreement goals and will translate into more jobs, lower energy bills for consumers and less energy imports,” EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said.

Whether the target will apply to the UK after it leaves the EU will depend on any exit deal reached between London and Brussels.

The new target surpasses the 30% level that the UK recommended, but fell short of the hopes of new governments in Spain and Italy, as well as the RE-Source coalition of dozens of big-name businesses including Microsoft, Ikea, and Unilever, which had all argued for a more ambitious 35% share to spur investment in renewable energy.

It also proved disappointing for activists at Greenpeace, which had lobbied for a 100% target and dubbed the newly agreed share “far too low”.

The organisation said in a statement that the aim “falls dangerously short of the level necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change”.


The transport challenge

A key aspect of the 2030 agreement is a target for renewable energy in transport, which has been set at a binding level of 10.5%. However,  a report has noted that just 3% of final energy use in the transport sector is met with modern renewables globally.

There will be a minimum 3.5% contribution for advanced biofuels such as wood residues, with the remaining 7% being accounted for by a mix of renewable electricity, electrofuels and recycled carbon fuels.

The new EU agreement also states that an additional 14% of energy sourced for transport could come from food-based biofuels, but that this target is optional. Previously, the Directive had counted such fuels under its binding targets, which accelerated the uptake of palm oil, rapeseed oil and soy oil to make biofuels.

In contrast, the new directive includes a pledge to phase out palm oil and soy by 2030, starting with a freeze on existing quantities of the imported resources. Palm and soybean oil biofuels cannot grow above each country’s 2019 consumption levels and should gradually decline from 2023 onwards until reaching 0% in 2030, the agreement states.

The European Federation for Transport and Environment (EFT&E) welcomed the move as a way of scrapping the “single biggest driver for food-based biofuel expansion in Europe”, but is calling on the Commission to come up with a methodology by 2019 to make the phase out operational.

“Governments now have no more excuse to force drivers to burn food or palm oil in their tanks after 2020 and should design policies that promote the use of renewable electricity or biofuels based on wastes and residues,” EFT&E clean fuels manager Laura Buffet said.

Sarah George

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