The European Union’s third Energy Union report shows that the EU’s transition to a low-carbon society is quickly becoming the new normal and progress towards implementing the Energy Union project is well on track.
However, there is still pressure from within the clean energy industry to expand the ambition of the Energy Union to provide more renewable energy, given recent cost reductions for both wind and solar.
Late last week the European Commission published its Third Report on the Energy Union, which revealed that the EU’s low-carbon transition is well on track to becoming a reality. The EU’s Energy Union is intended to “ensure that Europe has secure, affordable climate-friendly energy” while delivering new jobs and growth for the EU. The Report outlines the progress made over the past year since the publication of the Second State of the Energy Union report in February, as well as looking forward to 2018.
Specifically, the report highlights the introduction of 2016’s Clean Energy Package for All Europeans and the recent proposals on low-emission mobility, both of which being described as “major milestones” in the process to “creating new jobs, growth and opportunities for investment” across the EU.
“Less than three years since the publication of the Energy Union Framework Strategy , the Commission has presented nearly all the proposals needed to deliver on the energy efficiency first principle, support EU global leadership in climate action and renewable energy and provide a fair deal for energy consumers.”
The Third Report also claims that the EU must accelerate cooperative efforts and deliver on the region’s commitment to complete the Energy Union by the end of the current Commission mandate. Specifically, the Report states that, “By 2019, the Energy Union must no longer be policy. It must be reality.”
“The Energy Union will only succeed if we all pull in the same direction,” explained Maroš Šefčovič, the Vice-President responsible for the Energy Union. “The aim is to deliver on our commitment to complete the Energy Union by the end of the Commission’s current mandate. By 2019, the Energy Union must no longer be a policy but a daily reality benefiting every European citizen. This will require increased ownership by all parts of society. Therefore, I see the next year as the year of engagement.”
“Europe’s energy transition is well underway, with record levels of renewable energy and rapidly falling costs,” added Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy.
“But Europe’s energy infrastructure must develop in the same direction and with the same speed to fully support this energy transition. That’s why we are proposing to focus the new list of projects on key electricity interconnections and smart grids. Today’s steps to boost clean energy infrastructure are another important move towards making our energy system more sustainable, more competitive and more secure — providing genuine European added value.”
However, while the European Commission is intent on scaling commitment and cooperation, there are those who want the Energy Union targets to be expanded. Part of what Maroš Šefčovič said on the launch of the Report is that increasing the European Union’s renewable energy target from the existing 27% to 30% by 2030 would cost more or less the same as the original 27%. In response to this, however, WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson believes that the ambition must be expanded to better account for the recent cost reductions at play throughout the renewable energy industry — especially when it comes to wind and solar.
“It’s good the Commission has recognised that the EU can do better than a 27% renewables target for 2030,” Giles Dickson said.
“As the Vice President has said, renewables costs have fallen rapidly, and a higher target is not only affordable but economically desirable: wind is now the cheapest form of new power in most EU countries and it creates jobs and growth. But the affordable and economically desirable target isn’t 30%, it’s 35%. Just look at what’s happening: Germany awarded 1 GW of onshore wind at €38/MWh yesterday; Spain’s last auction delivered €33/MWh.
“It’s not clear the Commission have taken full account of this – or of the recent increases in capacity factors for wind energy. The average capacity factor for new onshore wind farms is now between 29% and 35% depending on location. And the average capacity factor for new offshore wind farms is now 48%.
“Low ambition on renewables comes at a cost. By sticking with low ambition instead of 35% Europe would miss out on €92bn in wind investments and over 130,000 jobs that would otherwise have been created. The European Parliament should stick to its guns and support 35% next week.”