European Council ups 2030 renewables target to 30%

The European Council has this week increased the 2030 target for renewables in Europe from 27% to 30%.

The move, although widely viewed as a positive step, has drawn criticism from some quarters for failing to introduce nationally binding targets that are likely to have more of a positive impact than an EU-wide target.

The CEO of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), James Watson, has instead urged EU member state heads to confirm their commitment to increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix when the leaders meet in Paris in October.

"An EU-wide target, without meaningful national targets, would not provide the stability and predictability an investor would need," said Watson. "To ensure that public and private capital is driven towards renewable energies, the right policy signals need to be given at European and national levels.

"The proposal currently on the table still falls short on the objective of incentivizing investments in renewable energy and creating the low carbon future a vast majority of Europeans want."

Such policy uncertainty at a European level is serving to undermine the development of renewables, according to a recent International Energy Agency (IEA) report. The lack of a stable, ambitious and – above all – predictable regulatory framework is stripping the renewable industry, solar included, of confidence among investors, and many business leaders across the various renewable sectors have called upon the European Commission and European Council to introduce more ambitious and binding targets.

However, Daniel Fraile, former policy director for the Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, told pv magazine that the EU is unlikely to adopt nationally binding targets for 2030, and believes that the chance of governments agreeing more ambitious targets is smaller still.

"EPIA and the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) have regularly called for binding national targets for renewable energy shares, with the subsequent possibility for governments to provide state support to renewable energy producers," Fraile said. "But countries like the U.K. have launched incredible campaigns against binding targets, and most Central and Eastern European countries are also opposed."

A stable, predictable strategy for renewable energy deployment, handed down from the EU, would help matters, believes Fraile, but more ambition is required. "The current EU strategy for energy is full of loopholes," he said. "Firstly and most importantly, the target to reduce greenhouse gases by 40% is far too low. To reach this target requires very little effort." The EPIA has recently called for the EU to adopt a target of 45% renewables by 2030 – a goal that is viewed as ambitious, but achievable.

Hopes for greater ambition at EU level have also been dealt a potential blow this week after it emerged that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has been appointed as President of the European Council.

Tusk’s time at the helm in Poland has been characterized by a prevalence for gas, with the PM even calling on Europe to move towards more "gas solidarity" back in April. Critics have claimed that Tusk’s appointment is an admission that the EU is running scared of renewable targets, while those willing to give him the benefit of the doubt argue that the financial considerations of Poland perhaps forced Tusk’s hands on matters relating to domestic energy.

Whether Tusk wishes to – or indeed is able to – introduce binding renewable energy targets for EU member states appears unlikely. Nicole Bockstaller, press office for energy policy at the European Commission, told pv magazine that "the European Commission left the issue of binding targets explicitly open, and did not make any suggestions.

"It is now for EU member states to decide on this at the October Council in Paris next month."

In the September issue of pv magazine, published September 10, the topic of the EU’s renewable energy future is explored in depth. Be sure not to miss it.