Europe to increase investments in renewables
By ECCT staff writers, Europa
The European Commission has presented the REPowerEU Plan, its response to the hardships and global energy market disruption caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. According to a press release on the EU’s official website, Europa, the motivation for the latest effort is due to the “double urgency to transform Europe's energy system: ending the EU's dependence on Russian fossil fuels, which are used as an economic and political weapon and cost European taxpayers nearly €100 billion per year, and tackling the climate crisis. By acting as a Union, Europe can phase out its dependency on Russian fossil fuels faster”. According to the press release, 85% of Europeans believe that the EU should reduce its dependency on Russian gas and oil as soon as possible to support Ukraine. The measures in the REPowerEU Plan can respond to this ambition, through energy savings, diversification of energy supplies, and accelerated roll-out of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels in homes, industry and power generation.
The green transformation will strengthen economic growth, security, and climate action for Europe and our partners. The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is at the heart of the REPowerEU Plan, supporting coordinated planning and financing of cross-border and national infrastructure as well as energy projects and reforms. The Commission proposes to make targeted amendments to the RRF Regulation to integrate dedicated REPowerEU chapters in Member States' existing recovery and resilience plans (RRPs), in addition to the large number of relevant reforms and investments which are already in the RRPs. The country-specific recommendations in the 2022 European Semester cycle will feed into this process.
Energy savings are the quickest and cheapest way to address the current energy crisis, and reduce bills. The commission proposes to enhance long-term energy efficiency measures, including an increase from 9% to 13% of the binding Energy Efficiency Target under the ‘Fit for 55' package of European Green Deal legislation. Saving energy now will help us to prepare for the potential challenges of next winter. Therefore the Commission also published today an ‘EU Save Energy Communication' detailing short-term behavioural changes which could cut gas and oil demand by 5% and encouraging Member States to start specific communication campaigns targeting households and industry. Member States are also encouraged to use fiscal measures to encourage energy savings, such as reduced VAT rates on energy efficient heating systems, building insulation and appliances and products. The commission also sets out contingency measures in case of severe supply disruption, and will issue guidance on prioritisation criteria for customers and facilitate a coordinated EU demand reduction plan.
The EU has been working with international partners to diversify supplies for several months, and has secured record levels of LNG imports and higher pipeline gas deliveries. The newly created EU Energy Platform, supported by regional task forces, will enable voluntary common purchases of gas, LNG and hydrogen by pooling demand, optimising infrastructure use and coordinating outreach to suppliers. As a next step, and replicating the ambition of the common vaccine purchasing programme, the Commission will consider the development of a ‘joint purchasing mechanism' which will negotiate and contract gas purchases on behalf of participating Member States. The Commission will also consider legislative measures to require diversification of gas supply over time by EU member states. The platform will also enable joint purchasing of renewable hydrogen.
The EU External Energy Strategy adopted today will facilitate energy diversification and building long-term partnerships with suppliers, including cooperation on hydrogen or other green technologies. In line with the Global Gateway, the Strategy prioritises the EU's commitment to the global green and just energy transition, increasing energy savings and efficiency to reduce the pressure on prices, boosting the development of renewables and hydrogen, and stepping up energy diplomacy. In the Mediterranean and North Sea, major hydrogen corridors will be developed. In the face of Russia's aggression, the EU will support Ukraine, Moldova, the Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries, as well as our most vulnerable partners. With Ukraine the commission will continue to work together to ensure security of supply and a functioning energy sector, while paving the way for future electricity and renewable hydrogen trade, as well as rebuilding the energy system under the REPowerUkraine initiative.
A massive scaling-up and speeding-up of renewable energy in power generation, industry, buildings and transport will accelerate our independence, give a boost to the green transition, and reduce prices over time. The commission proposes to increase the headline 2030 target for renewables from 40% to 45% under the Fit for 55 package. Setting this overall increased ambition will create the framework for other initiatives, including:
- A dedicated EU solar strategy to double solar photovoltaic capacity by 2025 and install 600GW by 2030.
- A solar rooftop Initiative with a phased-in legal obligation to install solar panels on new public and commercial buildings and new residential buildings.
- Doubling of the rate of deployment of heat pumps, and measures to integrate geothermal and solar thermal energy in modernised district and communal heating systems.
- A commission recommendation to tackle slow and complex permitting for major renewable projects, and a targeted amendment to the Renewable Energy Directive to recognise renewable energy as an overriding public interest. Dedicated ‘go-to' areas for renewables should be put in place by member states with shortened and simplified permitting processes in areas with lower environmental risks. To help quickly identify such ‘go-to' areas, the commission is making available datasets on environmentally sensitive areas as part of its digital mapping tool for geographic data related to energy, industry and infrastructure.
- Setting a target of 10 million tonnes of domestic renewable hydrogen production and 10 million tonnes of imports by 2030, to replace natural gas, coal and oil in hard-to-decarbonise industries and transport sectors. To accelerate the hydrogen market, increased sub-targets for specific sectors would need to be agreed by the co-legislators. The commission is also publishing two delegated acts on the definition and production of renewable hydrogen to ensure that production leads to net decarbonisation. To accelerate hydrogen projects, additional funding of €200 million is set aside for research, and the commission has committed to complete the assessment of the first important projects of common European interest by the summer.