Super-charge plans for energy efficiency and renewables in face of price crisis, 100 CEOs tell EU
Senior decision-makers at more than 100 businesses, including Microsoft and Unilever, are calling on the EU to ensure that its forthcoming plans for ending Russian oil and gas imports accelerate the bloc’s low-carbon transition.
The 114 businesses, convened by the European Corporate Leaders Group, have sent an open letter to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen ahead of the publication of the ‘RePowerEU’ strategy. The plan, due out next week following the release of a draft version in March, will outline how the EU intends to deliver its vision of being independent of Russian oil and gas imports “well before 2030”.
The letter advocates for the prioritisation of energy efficiency in the plans, for domestic and commercial energy users alike. It calls on the EU to bring forward plans for delivering the uptake “relatively quick and easy ways to reduce energy losses in buildings” at scale and pace, including loft and wall insulation, double glazing and fitting energy-efficient lighting.
There must also, the letter states, be an accelerated transition away from fossil fuels for heating and cooling, transport and industry. It acknowledges that a mix of alternative fuels and electrification will be needed, and that renewable electricity generation will need to be increased to ensure that electrification is truly a sustainable choice.
Leaked RePowerEU proposals, seen by publications including Euractiv and The Financial Times, state that the EU could target 45% renewables in the energy generation mix by 2030, up from the current target of 40%. A “drastic” acceleration of wind generation deployment would be used to deliver this increased target. The leaked documents also detail plans to accelerate the roll-out of heat pumps and hydrogen heating, served with low-carbon hydrogen.
As well as providing dedicated “fast-tracked” funding for energy efficiency and clean energy generation, the letter calls on the Commission to provide suitable financial incentives to leverage additional investment from the private sector and from households. It recommends that VAT is reduced or removed for those looking to install insulation, small-scale solar and/or fossil-fuel-free heating and cooling systems. This move has already been taken in the UK. The UK Government is also providing business rates relief for firms installing some of these products.
The letter goes on to call for the EU to ensure that enough workers are trained to install energy efficiency products in buildings and to fit low-carbon heating and cooling systems. This will require new funding, new partnerships with academia and the private sector, and additional communications, the letter states.
All of these recommendations, the letter states, should be underpinned by the principles of alignment with a 1.5C temperature pathway and by a vision for a “fair and inclusive transition process”. To this latter point, it states: “Given concerns about the cost of living across the EU, with households and businesses facing higher bills, particularly for energy, measures will need to be prioritised to support low-income households as well as struggling SMEs. Potential adverse impacts of the rapid transition on employment and community cohesion will need to be examined and planned for.”
Businesses represented by the letter’s signatories span a range of industries, including aviation, manufacturing, retail, chemicals, consumer goods, waste management and the built environment. They include Velux, Unilever, Signify, SSE, PepsiCo, Microsoft, McCain Foods, Natura&Co, H&M Group and Cemex.
The European Corporate Leaders Group’s director Eliot Whittington said: “Fossil fuels are on the way out and short-term pragmatism should not lock us into outdated approaches that harm our economy and the planet. This letter demonstrates the broad and deep understanding in the EU business community that the best response to the Ukraine crisis lies in doubling down on the European Green Deal and accelerating energy efficiency and the transition towards clean energy. The EU should not miss the opportunity of the REPowerEU Plan to keep a 1.5C-compatible future in reach.”
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