The state of European energy

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The European Commission, in its State of the Energy Union report, has revealed that the EU has recommended its 27 member states devote at least 37% of their Covid-19 recovery spending to climate change-related investments.

Referring to the 2021 Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy report – amid a typically EU-esque blizzard of other legislative papers in the 23-page energy review – the commission pointed out that renewables and hydrogen, energy and resource efficiency, and sustainable transport were key areas to focus on, with the implication that such spending might be viewed more favorably during national dole-outs from the bloc’s Covid recovery funds.

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The energy report noted that initiatives focused on reducing methane emissions and on boosting energy efficiency in buildings were launched yesterday and promised papers on offshore energy – including floating solar – and trans-European energy infrastructure, would follow this year.

The commission – which published the update yesterday for the European Parliament and Council as well as the EU’s economic and social committee and committee of the regions – was relatively upbeat on renewables. Clean energy accounted for 18% of final energy consumption in 2018, with the figure set to rise to 22.8 to 23.1% this year, with an uptick from Covid-related demand patterns, it stated.

However, even with the Covid benefit for renewables, the document warned, three unidentified EU member states were at “severe risk” of missing their 2020 renewables targets and a further two were at moderate risk of such a failure.

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The commission noted that only 16 of the 27 member states had thus far complied with the Paris Agreement requirement to submit national emissions reduction strategies to 2030, with the outstanding policy documents now 10 and a half months overdue.

The energy report stated EU spending on low carbon research and innovation amounted to only 15% of the amount that has been estimated would be necessary to hit the bloc’s 2030 emissions target, according to figures offered in the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan. The commission noted the EU is preparing a €1 billion Green Deal-Horizon 2020 R&D budget with further help on offer from the bloc’s Innovation Fund and Invest EU.

The report was also critical of the sluggish rate of energy and resource efficiency investment by EU nations. “Member states need to step up their efforts to increase energy efficiency,” stated the document – hence yesterday’s renovation strategy.

The report added, the bloc’s Energy Tax Directive aims to remove tax exemptions in member states which reduce the price of energy from fossil fuels, with the commission stating: “Fossil fuel subsidies should end.”

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