European Union 2020 energy targets ‘well within reach’

European Union (EU) Member States are collectively on course to meet 2020 targets for renewables, energy efficiency and emissions reductions, although a new report has warned that long-term objectives are at risk of falling short.

A new European Environment Agency (EEA) assessment published on Thursday (1 December), has revealed that collective emissions reductions have already surpassed the 20% reduction threshold, with Member States contributing to a 22% reduction against 1990 levels.

The analysis revealed that Member States are closing in on a target to source 20% of the EU’s gross final energy consumption from renewables. For 2015, this figure currently stands at 16.4% – a 0.4% increase on the year prior. A target to reduce energy consumption by 13% against 2005 levels is also in sight, with 2015 data highlighting that consumption had fallen by 11%.

EEA’s executive director Hans Bruyninckx said: “The way forward is clear: Member States must step up national ambition and efforts to achieve the 2020 and 2030 EU targets, and to keep the EU on a path to a low-carbon, competitive and circular economy by 2050. Certain trends are alarming, in particular for transport. In that sector, renewable energy use remains insufficient and greenhouse gas emissions are rising again.”

While things look good for the EU in the short-term, the report warns that raised efforts were a necessity in reaching longer-term goals. Both energy consumption and GHG emissions increased by 1% in 2015, although the analysis cites an “exceptionally” warm winter as a major factor for the rise.

The bloc has introduced a set of long-term targets that were established under the Paris Agreement. By 2030, renewable energy should account for 27% of energy use, while emissions should be reduced by 40% – against 1990 levels – in the same year. By 2050, the bloc wants to reduce emissions by 80%.

Future efforts

The report warns that if the bloc is to hit these goals, current efforts will have to step up “considerably”. While the 2030 renewables target can be reached at current pace, investor confidence will need to be boosted over the next few years to stop barriers emerging. Consumer behaviour is also in need of a “rapid change”, the report notes, in order to achieve future energy efficiency targets.

The report urged Member States to reinforce legislation, with the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) recording a 24% reduction in emissions for stationary installations since 2005. Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) was also estimated to reduce emissions in sectors applicable to the scheme by 12%. According to the report, further mechanisms need to be introduced to the transport sector in order to achieve a 10% sectoral target for renewables by 2020.

The report arrived just one day after the European Commission (EC) unveiled its 10-year Winter Package. Heralded as the moment the EC “finally recognised the still significant untapped potential” of energy efficiency measures, the package aims to accelerate ambition towards hitting the 2030 goals.

For the EEA, Member States should communicate with the European Parliament to outline pathways to implementing the Energy Union Framework, including a revision to the EU ETS, new ESD regulations, as well as scoping revisions to the Renewable Energy Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive.

Matt Mace

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