EU renewable energy goals fall short

According to a memo issued by Europa’s Commission Communication on renewable energy, the European Union (EU) reached a target of just over 18 percent renewable energy generation for electricity in 2010, rather than the discussed target of 21 percent. For transport, it reached 5.1 as opposed to 5.75 percent.

Furthermore, in the electricity sector, only seven out of 27 member states are expected to meet these 2010 targets, while just nine believe they will hit the transport sector targets.

While no binding targets were set for renewable energy for last year, two previous Directives – the 2001 Green Electricity Directive and the 2003 Biofuels Directive – laid down indicative, non binding targets for both electricity and the transport fuel mix.

Not all is doom and gloom though, since the new renewable energy Directive requires member states to take remedial action. In the memo, it says: "Member States National Renewable Energy Action Plans are required to contain all the measures effectively designed to achieve the trajectory contained in the Directive. In following these trajectories, the failure to meet the 2010 targets will be overcome and Member States can be on track to reach their (legally binding) 2020 targets. According to their national plans submitted in 2010, the Member States will all meet their 2020 targets."

Rapidly double funding

The Commission Communication on renewable energy says that in order to hit the required level of investment needed to fulfil the 2020 EU targets, the member states must implement their national action plans, and "substantially" increase financing. "Annual capital investment would need to rapidly double to €70 billion," states the memo. It goes on to say the funding should primarily come from the private sector, such as "big energy companies investing in wind or solar farms, or households investing in solar systems or other forms of renewable [energy]."

When issuing advice on what member states should do in terms of financing, it recommends further reforms of national renewable energy support schemes. "Support schemes need to ensure the costs of renewable energy production continue to fall, but they also need to provide a stable investment climate, without any retroactive changes to discourage investment," continues the memo.

It adds: "A convergence of financing, such as feed-in tariffs, will be necessary in the medium or long term, when a truly European market is created. This can include greater cooperation in setting tariffs, technology bands, tariff lifetimes etc. It could also include completely joining the support schemes (such as planned by Norway and Sweden)."

In terms of job creation, the commission says there is "great potential". According to its figures, the renewable energy industry currently employs over 1.5 million people. It says that by 2020, nearly three million more could be employed.

However, EU financial support given to renewables is described as being "relatively low". For the period 2007 to 2009, funds spent on renewable energy amounted to around €9.8 billion.

Divided

Meanwhile, Renewable Energy World Europe has said the industry remains divided as to whether the EU can achieve its 2020 targets. It sates that in a survey of global utility companies and energy firms, it found that 44 percent of respondents believe the EU will fail to meet its targets, and a further 44 percent saying that it is too early to tell. ??

Continued technical innovation is said to be viewed as the most important factor to the continued development of renewables in Europe, with over 60 percent of participants reportedly highlighting its importance. ??It goes on to say that in December, the EU unveiled a €1.2 billion investment plan across three pan-European research infrastructures in nuclear, solar, and wind energy. A wind research facility in Denmark, a concentrated solar power installation in Spain, and a nuclear research reactor in Belgium are expected to be constructed to enable "ground-breaking" research and innovation, in order to help secure the EU’s future energy supply. ? ?

"The EU must drive toward further investment in renewable technologies if it is to achieve its 20-20-20 targets," comments David Appleyard, conference director for Renewable Energy World Europe. "The survey underlines the importance of innovation, yet many of the EU member countries are struggling to meet their targets due to their lack of investment in renewables. There needs to be a greater commitment to the development and installation of renewables across Europe, and with more investment, the EU could smash its 2020 targets."

2020 goal

According to the commission, the Renewable Energy Directive adopted in 2009 sets binding targets for renewable energy. The new law focuses on achieving a 20 percent share of renewable energy in the EU’s overall energy mix by 2020. Every Member State has to reach individual targets for the overall share of renewable energy in energy consumption. In addition, in the transport sector, all Member States have to reach the same target of a 10 percent share of renewable energy.