European Commission urges renewables expansion as energy prices rise

European Commission to issue member states with guidance on accelerating permitting processes for renewable energy in 2022

Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson unveiled the 'toolbox' for the EU and its member states today (13 October)

The European Commission (EC) wants EU member states to increase investment and accelerate auctions and permitting processes for renewables to combat high energy prices, according to a new memo.

It presented a "toolbox" of ways in which the EU and its member states can address the immediate impact of current price increases and further strengthen resilience against future price shocks.

Support for renewable energy features among both short-term and medium-term measures to reduce the impact of high energy prices on households and businesses.

The commission also said it would issue member states with guidance on accelerating permitting processes for renewable energy in 2022.

Industry body WindEurope welcomed the EC’s communication, arguing that renewables are the key to affordable energy and that slow and complex permitting is the main bottleneck for the expansion of renewables today.

Suggested measures

In the short-term, member states could enable wider access to renewable energy, which is typically cheaper than fossil fuels, the EC suggested.

Member states could also offer emergency income support to households and state aid for companies, as well as make targeted tax reductions, it suggested.

In the medium-term, the EC plans to increase investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency measures, and also speed up renewable energy auctions and permitting processes.

It also plans to examine possible measures on energy storage to support an increasing share of renewables, purchasing of gas reserves and assess the current design of the electricity market.

Energy commissioner Kadri Simson said: “Rising global energy prices are a serious concern for the EU. As we emerge from the pandemic and begin our economic recovery, it is important to protect vulnerable consumers and support European companies.”

She added: “The current situation is exceptional, and the internal energy market has served us well for the past 20 years. But we need to be sure that it continues to do so in the future, delivering on the European green deal, boosting our energy independence and meeting our climate goals.”

Electricity prices have been rising  across Europe in recent weeks, reaching record levels in many EU countries. This is mainly due to high gas prices, resulting from the uptake of economic activity post-Covid and supply side constraints, according to WindEurope. 

Experts warn that a cold winter could further spur the surge in gas and electricity prices.

WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said: “With its new toolbox, the commission is doubling down on renewables as the key to stable electricity prices. Spot on — Europe needs to reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels and exposure to volatile gas prices. 

“And it’s good the commission recognises that slow and complex permitting is the main barrier to the rapid expansion of renewables …and that they’re going to issue guidance on how to simplify permitting processes.”