By 2030 the European Commission says that it plans to cut energy use across the bloc by 30%. This proposal is at the heart of a new package unveiled by the Commission- to help meet its commitments, to cut carbon under the Paris agreement. Also, the plans seek to boost renewables and give greater power to consumers to sell any electricity they produce. The measures have been criticised by green groups saying that they keep the door open for subsidies to coal. Under the Paris Climate Agreement, the EU have promised to cut emissions of CO2 by 40% by 2030. A key part of the promise is to cut waste and make better use of renewables. The Commission’s ideas for a 30% binding target on energy efficiency will see new incentives for smart metering and innovative designs. 1.5% each year from 2021 to 2030 will have to be saved by the energy suppliers and distributors.
Also, there will be a big focus on renovating older buildings. This sector accounts for 40% of Europe’s energy consumption. The proposal aims to create a building renovation market with a value of up to 120bn euros by 2030. The EU say that their Smart Finance for Smart Building initiative will allow member states to unlock an additional 10bn euros in private and public funds until 2020. “I’m particularly proud of the binding 30% energy efficiency target”, “It will reduce our dependency on energy imports, create jobs and cut more emissions” said EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete. Campaigners believe the EU could have gone even further, while welcoming the move on efficiency. Brook Riley from Friends of the Earth said “It is good to see this commitment from the EU”, “It is a real achievement and it will lift millions of people out of energy poverty and increase emissions cuts, but all of these elements are better with higher ambition. Why stop at 30%? Why not go further and meet the EU’s full potential?” The Commission also reiterated its policy of having renewables make up at least 27% of final energy consumption by 2030, including a 50% share of electricity production. Although, in markets where they already have a 15% share, green energy producers will no longer have priority to sell their power to the grid over traditional producers, such as coal and gas – a negative development according to many environmental campaigners. Also, the Commission’s plans aim to encourage individual consumers and community groups to produce their own power. There will be a limit on the size of the community or individual power supply, but small-scale renewable installations will still have priority on the grid.
“It is scandalous to cap the size of renewable energy cooperatives and bias market access in favour of inflexible fossil fuel giants”, “Europe will only meet its climate responsibilities if it enables its citizens to accelerate the transition to 100% renewables.” said Tara Connolly from Greenpeace. Another contentious issue is the proposal to limit subsidies for fossil fuels in what are called capacity mechanisms. Reserve supplies of power that member states keep on tap to prevent blackouts. These are often coal or gas fired plants. However, the Commission wants to impose a limit of 550 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour, this would rule out older coal plants but not newer, more efficient ones. “The CO2 limit proposed for capacity markets is a bad joke, said Christian Schaible from the European Environmental Bureau. “It impacts practically none of the existing EU coal fleet and fails to address the toxic health and other environmental impacts of coal.” Supporters have pointed out that these capacity mechanisms will now have to be open to cross border competition. This will include schemes which cut demand as a way of ensuring more power is available. One area where the Commission is making a U-turn is on the use of crop-based biofuels in transport. The EU wants to see newer fuels made from forestry waste or agriculture, take up a much bigger share. Today’s proposals will now need to be approved by both, member states and the European Parliament. Before Brexit, for the UK, it is not yet known if the new proposals will become a law. As a part of the UK’s exit, sources say that the opportunities to bid from some of the funding available under the schemes, and to supply energy to other markets will be the subject of negotiations