EU targets energy waste and coal subsidies in new climate package
01 December 2016 | Mitigation
Europe will begin phasing out coal subsidies and cut its energy use by 30% before the end of the next decade, under a major clean energy package announced in Brussels on Wednesday.
The 1,000 page blueprint to help the EU meet its Paris climate commitments also proposes measures to cut household electricity bills, integrate renewables into power markets, and limit use of unsustainable bioenergy.
The EU’s climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said that the new energy efficiency target was a centrepiece of the package, and would curb energy imports, create jobs and bring down emissions.
“Europe is on the brink of a clean energy revolution,” he told a press conference in Brussels. “And, just as we did in Paris, we can only get this right if we work together.”
The bloc’s vice president for energy union, Maroš Šef?ovi? added: “This is really something of a transformational nature that we are proposing – perhaps the biggest since the central power systems were built in Europe.”
It is unclear whether the UK will pass the new clean energy measures into national law before an anticipated Brexit in 2019.
A government spokesman would only say: “The UK Government is committed to ensuring the UK has a reliable, low cost and clean energy system. This is in line with the EU’s Energy Union ambition.
He added: “The Winter Package released today represents the European Commission’s view of what the next steps should be in developing the legislative framework to support that ambition.”
The commission says that the new package’s benefits include a €177bn (£151bn) mobilisation of public and private investment per year in the next decade, that could create 900,000 new green tech jobs and spur a 1% increase in GDP.
Adrian Joyce, the secretary general of EuroACE, an alliance of energy efficiency companies said the new EU-wide energy saving target was “reassuring” but that his members had expected nothing less.
“We will now turn to the European parliament and member states to call for an increase in the target, as 30% is no better than business as usual,” he said.
To keep the bloc on track towards its goal of providing 50% of electricity from renewables in 2030, the package will also bar coal-fired plants from access to “capacity mechanisms” that guarantee back-up power reserves.
A benchmark of 550 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour will be introduced for new plants, in line with the European Investment Bank’s emissions performance standard. Existing plants will have to comply with the new limit by 2026.
In the interim though, 280 existing coal plants and 13 planned new ones could still benefit from the current system, according to Greenpeace.
The campaign group’s spokeswoman Tara Connolly, said: “Not only is the commission slamming on the brakes on renewables, it wants to let governments dole out cash to almost all coal power stations in Europe for at least another decade.”
In total, eight pieces of legislation were proposed today, covering a dizzying array of issues from electricity market design to energy poverty, and from biofuels to security of supply.
As the Guardian has reported, new measures were pitched to put an electric car charging point in every new home, to redesign some energy-guzzling products and to remove new wind and solar power plants from the EU’s priority dispatch system.
Despite this, the WindEurope trade association welcomed the package as “more good than bad” on balance. But it still called on MEPs and EU states to pile on the pressure for an increased renewable energy target before the proposals become law.
The fossil fuels industry gave a guarded welcome to the EU’s deregulatory approach, particularly the removal of the priority dispatch system. But Roland Festor, a director of the International Association of Oil and Gas producers said: “Proposals for new targets in different areas appear counter to the market-based approach. Too many targets risk [policy] overlap, with the consequence of weakening rather than strengthening EU climate and energy policy.”
Much of the commission’s package navigated between the contrasting demands of fossil fuel-dependent countries and industries and those such as Germany and Denmark, which already have advanced plans to decarbonise.
Nowhere was the commission’s balancing act more finely weighted than on the vexed question of bioenergy, which Cañete admitted was “a clear problem”.
The bloc has pledged to phase out subsidies for food-based energy crops, but a revised renewable energy directive released today only whittles down a cap on such biofuels from 7% in 2020 to 3.8% in 2030.
Sini Eräjää, a spokeswoman for BirdLife Europe, said: “Ignoring science and brushing aside evidence of the destructive impacts of current bioenergy use will not make these problems go away. It will more likely make them worse.”
Many environmental groups gave similarly one-handed applause to the new package, which treads water on key issues such as renewable energy targets and the pace of decarbonisation.
Jonathan Gaventa of E3G called the legislation “politically cautious” while ClientEarth lawyer Maria Kleis-Walravens dubbed it “disappointing in the extreme”.
“Civil society has one hand tied behind its back, making it easier for industry to continue its capture of the legislative process,” Kleis-Walravens said. “There is a very high risk that Europe won’t get the energy transition it needs to provide clean, affordable power for all.”
The new package will also set up an energy poverty observatory, and offer consumers new safeguards before they can be disconnected from the grid.
Source: The Guardian