The 27% goal "will probably be achieved without any additional efforts", said Jose Blanco Lopez, the lawmaker tasked with steering the dossier through parliament.
Under the European Commission's (EC) proposal the new Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) — one of eight legislative proposals in the recent "winter package" — would not extend the current directive's binding national targets beyond 2020.
But Blanco Lopez said that without fresh national targets the EU would be unable to reach its goal of decarbonising Europe's economy by 2050.
MEP Sean Kelly, lead negotiator for the centre-right EPP group, argued that the costs of solar PV and wind energy were now "significantly below" the figures used by the EC to arrive at the 27% figure.
Lawmakers also flagged the importance of creating a predictable financial and regulatory environment to promote investment in renewables, while some questioned the commission's proposal to make permitted renewables support technology neutral.
After the debate, Green MEP Claude Turmes predicted the European Parliament would back more ambitious 2030 renewables and energy efficiency targets and push EU governments to accept them.
"I think the parliament will go for [targets of] over 30% on renewables and energy efficiency, and we will have binding targets," Turmes said at an event to launch a book he has written on Europe's energy transition.
As the politician responsible for steering the original renewables directive through the Brussels-based legislature in 2008, Turmes acknowledged past mistakes. "The biggest failure was setting too low a CO2 target for 2020...and we didn't anticipate the fast fall in the cost of solar," he said.
As the largest and most coal-dependent country in the EU's post-communist east, Poland is seen as the main obstacle to reform. Turmes believes it can be brought on board by using the carrot of falling renewables costs.
"If we can organise offshore wind for Poland at €55/MWh, creating thousands of jobs...it will be much more difficult for the government to refuse," he said in Brussels.
First published on Ends Europe