Will Europe Heed To Calls For 100% Renewable Energy Target For 2050?

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European legislators have been urged to set a 100% renewable energy target for 2050 by the Global Alliance for 100% Renewable Energy. The Alliance, launched in Europe recently, criticised the EU legislators for not setting aggressive long-term renewable energy targets.

Middelgruden Offshore Wind Farm in Denmark Credit: United Nations Photo | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Middelgruden Offshore Wind Farm in Denmark
Credit: United Nations Photo | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Alliance members, which include World Future Council, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, and the World Wind Energy Association, noted that the EU legislators lack the political will to set aggressive, yet achievable and highly beneficial long-term renewable energy targets.

The continent currently has set a renewable energy target of 20% by 2020 and is contemplating a medium-term target of 30-35% by 2030. A number of member states have set renewable energy targets of more than 20%. Scandinavian and Baltic member states have among the highest renewable energy targets. Norway, Sweden, and Latvia have set targets of 67.5%, 49%, and 40% respectively.

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Need For Long-term Renewable Energy Target

EU legislators are believed to been having discussions to set renewable energy targets for 2030 as one of the ways to continue the low-carbon development which seems to have been stalled due to the poor state of the continent’s carbon market. European carbon prices have fallen to record lows as emissions across member states have fallen due to the economic slowdown. Industrial units are sitting with surplus emissions rights of about two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

The EU legislators have thus been urged to take initiatives to make investment in low-carbon development attractive. In addition to renewable energy targets, the Members of European Parliament are also considering a regulatory fix for the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). Recently, the Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety approved a measure to delay the auction of permits equivalent to 900 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Some legislators have also supported increasing the emissions reduction target from the current 20% by 2020. Higher targets have also been suggested for 2030 and 2050 so as to provide the investors with a long-term assurance.

Significant Opposition To Renewable Energy Targets

The United Kingdom, which has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 from 1990 levels, has supported EU-wide higher emission reduction targets but has categorically opposed setting higher renewable energy and energy efficiency targets  The country seems more interested in nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage to reduce emissions rather than deploying large-scale renewable energy infrastructure.

A number of European states have also withdrawn financial support for renewable energy technologies, especially solar photovoltaics (PV). Several countries, including the Czech Republic and Romania, have levied revenue tax on solar PV projects while Germany may reduce feed-in tariff support for solar PV projects over the next few months. Additionally, the anti-dumping duties imposed on cheap Chinese solar power equipment may make the EU solar power sector even more unattractive to the investors and project developers.

Some may argue that given the poor economic health of the EU and its beleaguered carbon market, its importance as the global leader for low-carbon development has diminished over the last few years. China, US, Japan, and emerging renewable energy and carbon markets are gaining importance and are now looking more attractive compared to the EU.

China launched its first emissions trading scheme last week; the US looks set to announce emission standards for coal-based power plants; California launched its own cap-and-trade scheme last year; India, China, and Japan are fast emerging as the engines of the global renewable energy market. While the EU may have lost its charm as the low-carbon leader of the world, increasing investment in renewable energy and low-carbon technologies would serve its own interests in the long-term and help it build a resilient economy for the future.

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Mridul Chadha

Mridul currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.

Mridul Chadha has 425 posts and counting. See all posts by Mridul Chadha