Friday 28th October 2016                 Change text size:

EU urged to adopt ‘renewables-first approach’ to policymaking

Charles Cook via flickr

The head of a trade association representing the British renewable energy industry has urged UK ministers to support binding EU renewables targets to encourage investment in green technology.

Ministers will discuss the EU 2030 climate and energy framework in Brussels this month, with the first stages of talks opening on Monday at an Environment Council meeting attended by the UK environment secretary Owen Paterson and the energy secretary Ed Davey.

Prime minister David Cameron will also discuss the framework at a two-day European Council meeting beginning on March 20. 

One of the main talking points will be the issue of binding national renewable targets.The British government, along with the European commission – the only EU body able to approve such legislation – has so far been opposed to introducing renewable energy targets for individual nations.

In January, the commission voted for carbon emission reduction targets of 40% by 2030 but set an EU-wide target for renewable energy of 27%, rather than setting a target for each state.

Critics called these targets a “major disappointment and “toothless”, warning that they would undermine investment in renewable technologies. 

In a later vote, the European parliament – whose verdict is not binding and can be ignored by EU states – seemed to side with these critics. MEPs voted in favour of a framework that would require all nations to generate at least 30% of energy from renewable sources by 2030.

In a written statement to parliament published ahead of this week’s discussions, Davey reaffirmed his intentions to rule out national targets.

However, Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association (REA) warns the government that emissions targets alone will not be enough to deliver the required investment in renewable technology.

“Technology-neutral policy won’t deliver technology-neutral results when the dice are already loaded”, she writes. 

Nuclear and [carbon capture and storage] have an inherent advantage, as these projects are developed by the established energy giants, while most renewable energy companies are independent SMEs. This makes it harder for renewables to compete for investment.” 

In another open letter to EU decision makers, the European Renewable Energy Council echoes Skorupska’s sentiments.

The council argues that state-level renewable energy targets would support 568,000 jobs and provide lower energy costs for energy intensive industries.

In a report published last week by consultancy firm EY, the UK fell from fourth to fifth in a ranking of the most attractive countries for renewable energy investment.

The firm said political uncertainty and “mixed signals” led to a decrease in investor confidence and is potentially putting £330 billion of investment at risk.

Skorupska adds in her letter to ministers, “For affordable green energy in the 2020s and beyond, we need a renewables-first approach to 2030, with CCS and nuclear filling in the gaps renewables can’t fill yet.” 

Further reading:

‘Mixed signals’ lead to UK fall in renewable investment rankings

EU parliament puts weight behind renewable energy and climate targets

EU 2030 energy and climate targets: the reaction

EU agrees on 40% emissions cut and 27% renewables targets

EU agrees on 40% emissions cut and 27% renewables targets

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