Debate begins on post-2020 EU renewables policy

Binding 2030 targets possible, but far from guaranteed

Discussion about the future of EU renewable energy policy – including the prospect of new binding targets – has officially begun, with publication of a preliminary policy document and impact assessment by the European Commission.

Amongst the policy options outlined in Renewable Energy: a major player in the European Energy Market - COM(2012) 271 – is the introduction of either a new set of national renewable energy targets for 2030 or an EU-wide target with the same deadline.

The European Renewable Energy Council has called for a 2030 target requiring "at least" 45% of EU electricity consumption to be generated by renewable sources.

Another supporter of binding 2030 targets is The Coalition of progressive European energy companies, whose nine members include major players in the offshore wind sector such as Dong, SSE and Eneco.

The option of forgoing binding targets and, instead, relying on the EU’s greenhouse gas (ghg) emission reduction targets to drive further growth in renewables is also presented by the Commission.

If no new policies are introduced to support renewable energy after 2020, the sector’s annual growth rate is forecast to fall to 1.2%, in contrast to a 6.3% average annual growth rate anticipated for the 2010-2020 period.

A great deal of emphasis is given in the Commission’s communication to the need for "renewable energy technologies [to] become competitive and ultimately market driven". While it is clear the Commission supports overall reductions in financial support for the renewables sector, offshore wind – particularly, floating and other deep-sea solutions – is included in a list of sub-sectors likely to require continued support during the post-2020 period.

Another recurring theme is the need for greater harmonisation between member states’ energy policies. A communication on the EU internal energy market is in the pipeline and the Commission also plans to publish:

-         best practice guidance on the design and implementation of renewable energy support schemes

-         guidelines to facilitate trade in renewable trade

-         a communication paper on EU energy technology policy.

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