Question of the Week: EU 2020 targets. Where did it go wrong?

EUROPE: Windpower Monthly spoke to EWEA, Vattenfall and members of the European parliament's energy committee to discuss why so many EU countries are likely to miss the 2020 renewable energy targets.

A report from the European Commission warns that 14 states are expected to miss targets
A report from the European Commission warns that 14 states are expected to miss targets

Question: Why are so many EU states likely to miss they 2020 targets?

Sabine Froning, Director European Affairs and Policy Management, Vattenfall

The report compares figures for 2011/2012 with the interim targets set in the renewable action plans that had to be delivered by member states under the Renewable Energy Directive.

Data actually shows that overall growth rates achieved in renewable electricity are in line with what is needed to achieve the production planned for 2020. This holds true in particular if looking at more recent figures and for markets in which Vattenfall is primarily active: Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as Denmark and the UK.

There has been political will and the industry has made significant investments. In Germany for example, renewable electricity production amounted already to 25.3% in 2013, of which 7.9% was produced by wind. Underachievers are the transport sector as well as heating and cooling rather than electricity.

With regards to 2030, it is of course important for investments, which have a long lead time, to know where Europe is heading – and to progress in a coordinated way. Therefore, Vattenfall has at an early stage called for a speedy adoption of a new energy and climate framework, in particular a new and ambitious CO2 target.

As renewables grow, cost-effectiveness will be key to secure long-term support by the public. Specific support schemes are still needed in the near term, but also the emissionstrading scheme could become a stronger motor in the electricity sector if reformed and strengthened without delay — for example by securing a permanent set-aside of allowances, adjusting the linear factor etc.

Renewables in general, and wind in particular, have become a reliable source of energy all year long. There is no reason why political will should be lacking in the future, and at Vattenfall we will continue to focus our growth efforts on the expansion of renewable energy.

Morten Helveg Petersen, Danish Social Liberal Party MEP, vice chair of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy

It is not easy to answer what went wrong with reaching the 2020 targets. Mostly it looks like a lack of will from some of our national leaders. Basically, almost everyone agrees that we need to strengthen sustainability.

In Denmark the governing coalition has an ambition of 50% sustainable energy in 2020. But not everyone has the courage to act. We face major challenges in the following years, where a great number of our energy sources need change. Ergo, this is the time to act: We have a unique opportunity to choose between building on sustainable solutions or building oil-, gas- or nuclear plants.

We won't be able to change our decision, so we need to make the right call. Our national leaders need to stand up and act on the vows they gave just years ago. To make a change and build on sustainable solutions.

In general, long-term targets are necessary. Politics is not a game of speed, but a game of stamina. If we need to make the real changes, we need to do it in the long run. Some might say that the economy prevents industry and national leaders to live up to ambitious targets.

But keep in mind that green energy means green growth, and that we are keen on building a greener future shoulder by shoulder with our companies and businesses. Therefore, the targets shouldn't be more lenient. I would like to see at least 30% of sustainable energy in 2030. And in the long run, our ambition should be a completely CO2-neutral energy sector.

Oliver Joy, political affairs division, EWEA

It is important that this report is not taken out of perspective. Yes, there have been too many negative regulatory changes at national level in the EU, which means that some member states are off-track.

However, we are only half-way down the line when it comes to meeting the renewables target for 2020 set by European heads of state in 2009. Today 14% of final energy consumption is from renewable energy sources. In the power sector 23.5% of our electricity produced is from renewables. In 2020 we need to be at least 34% renewable electricity to meet the 20% renewable energy target. It is achievable.

This is not a question of money; rather it is a question of will on the part of policymakers.

We need a solid political vision for renewables in Europe post-2020. It is very difficult for investors to make decisions on where to put their money when they don't know what will happen as of 1 January 2021. Wind turbines, and perhaps more importantly the factories that manufacture them, are infrastructure. They will last long into the future and therefore a renewables target for 2020 is simply an outlook for the short to medium term.

The wind industry and financiers need a window into the post-2020 environment. Only once we have this will we see greater strides in the short term, safe in the knowledge that Europe is committed to renewable and wind energy development over the long-term.

That is why EWEA is calling on heads of state to set at least a 30% renewable energy target, which is binding at national level, when they meet for the European Council later this month. This target would show ambition on behalf of member states and is a logical progression from the 20% target for 2020.

Theresa Griffin, Labour Party MEP for North-West England, member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy

Europe is facing different challenges related to its energy policy: promoting sustainable economic growth, guaranteeing secure and affordable energy for all and, at the same time, meeting our climate change targets and environmental objectives.

To achieve those objectives Europe needs to re-orientate its energy model and push towards more renewable energies. The 2020 framework sets in stone three key climate goals on the reduction of CO2 emissions, renewables and energy efficiency.

Unfortunately, only nine out of 27 participating member states are expected to meet their 2020 renewable energy targets. This underperformance can be explained by the lack of reliable renewable energy support schemes in some countries, as well as insufficient financing, which can unsettle major investors.

Ambitious and binding renewable energy targets therefore remain a crucial necessity for 2030. The EU should set a target for 30% of the total final energy consumption to come from renewable energy sources. The renewable sector and investors need more long-term certainty, which can only be assured with binding targets. Finally, keeping an eye on the bigger picture, we will only achieve our broader energy policy goals and fight against climate change by pushing for an energy model based on more renewables.

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