It’s a long and winding road to a post 2020 EU energy policy. Europe faces a policy void after 2020 when the main pillars of EU energy policy – targets for renewable energy, emissions and energy efficiency – run out. At the moment only the Emissions Trading System is set to continue after 2020. What Europe needs if it is to continue increasing its share of renewable energy, with all the economic growth and jobs that can create (as well as reducing our fuel import bill and the obvious environmental and climate benefits), is to put in place for 2030 a policy that works: a legally binding renewable energy target.
But for the second time Poland has blocked Council conclusions on the 2050 Roadmap which is the EU’s attempt to begin to fill that policy void. Today the Polish prevented the Energy Ministers from reaching a formal agreement on the 2050 Energy roadmap, and this follows doing the same last year with Environment Ministers on the overall 2050 Low Carbon Economy Roadmap (which covers energy, transport and other sectors).
But at least 26 EU Ministers agreed today on some important points. They agreed that
– a substantially higher share of renewable energy is needed beyond 2020 (defining it as a “no regret option”)
– developing post 2020 strategies is necessary and urgent,
– they should encourage work (by the European Commission) to define a 2030 policy framework notably based on the no regrets options
This agreement represents progress, but it does not offer the clarity about future energy policy that investors need.
Furthermore, the reason Poland blocked formal Ministerial conclusions today were not connected to those important points above but rather to another dispute about the meaning of the word ‘decarbonisation’. So it’s a shame they blocked, but not a fatal setback.
Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger promised some further progress when he announced at the press conference after the Energy Ministers meeting today that he would still come forward with proposals for a new generation of targets next year. This is not the very first time he has said this, but he was very clear about it which is always welcome. One of these targets must be an ambitious and binding renewable energy target.
What happens next?
European Heads of Government meet next week to discuss the economic crisis and much-needed growth. They have an opportunity to recognise that a growing share of renewables up to and after 2020 is the best way to create jobs and European manufacturing (and exports), and to indicate that a binding target for renewable energy is an effective way of achieving this. It remains to be seen if they will take that opportunity.
In the autumn Energy Ministers will discuss the European Commission’s recently published ‘Renewable Energy Strategy’. They would disgrace themselves if they were not able to reach formal conclusions (as opposed to the agreement among 26 out of 27 reached today). They would seriously alarm potential renewable energy investors if they impeded progress towards a binding renewable energy target for 2030.