EU 45% renewable energy target for 2030 must be set now

» By | Published 16 Jun 2011

A 45% renewable energy target for 2030 would create the future policy-stability the green energy sector the needs, was one of the main messages emerging from last night’s public debate on EU energy policy post-2020.

New energy policies must be drawn-up today, and not in 2020 when the current targets expire, Josche Muth, Secretary General of the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) said at the debate organised by the European Wind Energy Association. The call was backed by Claude Turmes, MEP, who said that renewables are becoming a mainstream source of electricity faster than was forseen.

This comes against a backdrop of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and a recent report from the International Energy Agency showing that last year saw the highest level of carbon emissions in history. “The idea that many people had that the recession would reduce emissions has not been borne out,” Fiona Harvey, journalist at the Guardian and debate moderator, said.

As climate change becomes ever more apparent, and nuclear is increasingly rejected, renewable energy can fill the gap. The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is releasing a report today revealing that there is more than enough renewable energy to meet future energy demand (read more on our blog post).

And yet, renewable energy could face a threat from cheap gas supplies unless policy-makers fix renewable energy targets beyond 2020.  Niels Ladefoged, from Connie Hedegaard’s, European Commissioner for Climate Action, cabinet, warned that there are enough fossil fuels in the ground to heat up the planet beyond levels that nature can sustain.

Grids in crisis

Electricity grids are in urgent need of replacement and extension in order to meet future energy demand, that was another cause of high concern raised at last night’s debate.“We are dealing with an archaic electricity system,” Muth said.

But while it seems that all speakers at the debate agreed on the need for upgrading grids, there was less agreement on how.“We need a vision,” Ladefoged said. Deciding which grids to build where depends on the energy system of tomorrow, he added. “We need a well functioning electricity market designed in a proper manner”.

Folker Franz from Business Europe highlighted a Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) report on achieving 100% renewable electricity by 2050 which noted that grids are the major hurdle to this goal. “A noticeable lack of progress on reform to the infrastructure planning and permits regime now poses the single biggest threat to the future large scale expansion of renewable electricity in Europe,” a PwC press release said.

But upgrading grids is not just needed to bring more renewable energy online. Some 2/3 of investment needed is not related to renewables, Muth noted. Grids need to be extended, upgraded and better connected. At the same time the EU electricity market needs fair and effective competition in a truly European market. (Read EWEA’s vision for electricity markets here).

Last night’s lively discussion took place on Global Wind Day, read reports on events around the world on this blog.