The European Union’s long-awaited “Winter Package” clean energy plans have put the EU on a path to cut CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030 while at the same time modernizing the region’s economy, delivering jobs and growth for all European citizens, and being a global leader in the clean energy transition.
However, while the 1,000-page long policy plans are thorough, they do not come close enough to satisfy all parties.
“The Commission wants the EU to lead the clean energy transition, not only adapt to it,” the European Commission wrote in its press release announcing the plans, adding that the proposals have three main goals: “putting energy efficiency first, achieving global leadership in renewable energies, and providing a fair deal for consumers.” The Commission believes the proposed changes will give citizens across the Union better choice of energy supply, access to reliable energy price comparison tools, and the potential to produce and sell their own electricity. Additionally, the Commission is aiming to increase transparency and develop better regulation which will give more opportunities for society to become more involved in the energy system. The “Winter Package” of climate policies also intends to introduce a number of measures which will protect the most vulnerable customers.
Energy Efficiency, Global Leadership, & Consumers
The Commission’s “Clean Energy for All Europeans” proposals expects to mobilize up to €177 billion of private and public investment per year from 2021 onward, increasing the GDP by 1% over the next decade, and creating up to 900,000 jobs.
The plans include a binding European Union-wide target of 30% for energy efficiency by 2030. Further, energy efficiency measures include the development of a framework for improving energy efficiency in general across the Union, improving energy efficiency in buildings, improving the energy performance of products and informing consumers, and increasing financing for energy efficiency with the smart finance for smart buildings proposal.
The European Union also intends to set itself up as a global leader in renewable energy technologies, including renewable electricity, cleaner heating and cooling, and decarbonized transport. The European Union aims to collectively reach a share of at least 27% renewables in the final energy consumption by 2030.
The Commission also proposed plans that will focus on providing a fair deal to consumers, noting that the region’s “clean energy transition also needs to be fair for those sectors, regions, or vulnerable parts of society affected by the energy transition.” Energy consumers appear to be a target audience for these latest set of policies, with the Commission noting that all consumers “across the EU will be entitled to generate electricity for either their own consumption, store it, share it, consume it, or sell it back to the market.” The EU Commission is also intent on accelerating the deployment of smart meters across the region, and ensuring access for all to dynamic electricity price contracts.
“Today’s package will boost the clean energy transition by modernising our economy,” explained Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President for Energy Union.
“Having led the global climate action in recent years, Europe is now showing example by creating the conditions for sustainable jobs, growth and investment. Today’s proposals touch upon all clean energy related sectors: research and innovation, skills, buildings, industry, transport, digital, finance to name but a few. These measures will equip all European citizens and businesses with the means to make the most of the clean energy transition.”
“Our proposals provide a strong market pull for new technologies, set the right conditions for investors, empower consumers, make energy markets work better and help us meet our climate targets,” added Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy.
“I’m particularly proud of the binding 30% energy efficiency target, as it will reduce our dependency on energy imports, create jobs and cut more emissions. Europe is on the brink of a clean energy revolution. And just as we did in Paris, we can only get this right if we work together. With these proposals, the Commission has cleared the way to a more competitive, modern and cleaner energy system. Now we count on European Parliament and our Member States to make it a reality.”
A Lackluster Response
While numerous agencies around the EU responded to the Winter Package, there was very little excitement to these responses.
“We welcome the Commission’s package on renewables and market design,” said Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope. “But there is still a lot of work to do in the Parliament and the Council to ensure renewables investors stick with Europe after 2020. If Europe is going to deliver on its goal to be number one in renewables, the Commission’s proposals have to be further developed.
“Crucially Member States have to produce meaningful national plans that map out how they are going to deliver their energy transition. And that means all Member States. Today only 7 out of 28 have clear plans and policies in place for renewables beyond 2020.”
“These EU measures on energy and efficiency should be the absolute minimum,” reiterated Alasdair Cameron, Friends of the Earth energy campaigner. “The UK government must exceed these targets as part of its Brexit strategy.”
“The package is extensive and mostly sensible, but politically cautious,” said Jonathan Gaventa, Director at the environmental think-tank E3G. “A number of important measures will help make Europe’s energy transition work better, such as opening markets up to demand side flexibility.
“There is little in the package, however, that will drive a radical transformation of the energy market on its own. It will now be up to national governments and the European Parliament — along with citizens, communities, businesses and investors — to pick up the reins.”
“The level of ambition in this mammoth package of laws is disappointing, and publishing all eight on the same day will make proper scrutiny almost impossible,” said ClientEarth lawyer Maria Kleis. “Only industry is likely to benefit from this mammoth legislative package, which will be a huge task even for well-funded lobbyists to follow. With a clear advantage over NGOs in terms of resources, it will be much easier for industry to water down the proposals even further.
“There is a risk that Europe won’t get the energy transition it needs to provide clean, affordable power for all and to fight climate change.”
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