Can the Energy Union offer a chance for 100% Renewable Energy (RE) in Europe? The ‘Energy Union with a forward looking climate policy’ has the goal to supply EU consumers with secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy. However, it is uncertain what the Energy Union means in practice and there still remains a huge gap between official claims and reality. Angelika Haaser deliberates on how the Energy Union should be designed in order to promote 100% renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Why do we need 100% RE?
Fossil fuels are finite, produce GHG emissions and as a consequence are accelerating climate change. It is also predicted that fossil fuels will get more expensive than RE in the future while nuclear power will still present an unbearable risk. Therefore, switching to RE is our only option and in the long run we will need to operate on 100% RE. Several scientific studies showed that operating on 100% RE globally is technically and economically possible by the year 2050. The EU has renewable energy targets in place, such as the 20-20-20 targets, that are binding on national level with three key objectives for 2020: reduce GHG emission by 20%, raising the share of RE to 20% and improve EE by 20%. The mix of binding targets on national level and the coordination and monitoring on the EU level have been vital to increase the share of renewables in Europe and therefore, the 20-20-20-targets are an important first step for the promotion of renewables and to achieve 100% RE in the long term.
Building an Energy Union
The Energy Union aims to enable all member states to operate on a joint energy market and focusses on energy security, developing the internal energy market, energy efficiency, decarbonisation and research & innovation. Creating an Energy Union with an ambitious climate policy at its core has been agreed by EU leaders as a strategic priority for Europe’s energy future in order to give EU consumers secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy. Also President Juncker wants Europe’s Energy Union to become the world number one in renewable energies.
However, the number of jobs in the RE industry in the EU has decreased from 1.25 million (2012) to 1.2 million (2013), while China is the number one in terms of investments in RE. Also with regard to the Energy Union, there is an inconsistency between the vision of fossil fuel phase-out and the focus on increased gas supply. There is also an unclear approach towards decarbonisation and promotion of RE. This shows the gap between official claims and reality.
In a lunch debate on 100% RE with MEPs and EU Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete hosted by the WFC and MEP Peter Liese in June 2015, the need to strengthen the role of RE in the Energy Union and to decarbonize the economy were both highlighted. Also many Initiatives and NGOs have demanded more support for RE from the Energy Union (e.g. BEE, CAN, E3G, WWF).
The Energy Union: a chance for 100% RE?
The Energy Union presents a unique chance for the promotion of RE as it is the political tool that can accelerate the energy transition in the EU by creating an enabling policy framework for the EU and its member states. The aim of the Energy Union is to supply EU costumers with secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy and to decarbonize the energy sector. Renewable energy is the only source of energy that fulfills all these requirements. Therefore, the only rational, efficient and sustainable solution for the Energy Union is to increase the share of RE. The good news is that the Energy Union can be an opportunity for renewable energy particularly if the following points are prioritized:
- Renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy savings need to be at the heart of the Energy Union.
- Clear and consistent long term goals and greater focus on climate concerns:
- Europe’s energy and climate strategies must be consistent and complementary.
- Regulatory strategy and glide-path for phasing out fossil fuels are needed.
- Securing investment: Investment options for RE should be provided.
As the 2030 targets are non-binding on the national level, a robust, reliable and transparent governance framework is needed for achieving and surpassing the 2030 targets on RE and GHG reduction on the national level.
Angelika Haaser joined the WFC Commission on Climate and Energy in April 2015 as an intern. She is a Master’s student of Sustainability Science at the Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany.
This article was first published at World Future Council and is reposted with permission.