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EU agrees to increase renewable energy target to 45%

Wind turbines spin over a solar park
The 45 per cent renewal energy target is a significant increase on the current 2030 goal of 32 per cent. (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The new target – a significant increase on the current goal of 32 per cent – agreed as part of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive sends a clear message to investors over Europe’s energy transition.

The European parliament and EU member states have agreed, after intense discussions, to set a binding 42.5 per cent renewable energy target for Europe by 2030, with an additional 2.5 per cent voluntary target. The deal was heralded as a clear message for investors and businesses about the direction of Europe’s energy transition. 

The 45 per cent target is a significant increase on the current 2030 goal of 32 per cent, but environmental non-governmental organisations and the renewables industry insisted that the EU must go further and faster with its rollout of renewable energy solutions if emissions are to be reduced in line with climate science and international climate commitments. 

The deal was agreed as part of negotiations on the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive. It also includes sector-specific renewable energy targets for the heating and cooling sector, and calls for 49 per cent of energy consumption in EU buildings by 2030 to come from renewable sources. 

The industrial sector is included for the first time in the directive, with the goal of increasing renewable energy use by 1.6 per cent a year and a binding target that 42 per cent of the industry’s total hydrogen consumption comes from renewable sources by 2030. 

France’s insistence that “low-carbon hydrogen”, essentially hydrogen from nuclear, should be deducted from renewable goals threatened to derail the negotiations. The final deal backs hydrogen from other sources if countries meet their renewable energy targets and ensure the share of hydrogen from fossil fuels is not more than 23 per cent of the total in 2030 and 20 per cent in 2035. 

The compromise “recognises the specific role of nuclear energy that is neither green nor a fossil fuel,” commented French MEP Pascal Canfin from the centrist Renew Europe political group.

The agreement also sets targets for transport of a 14.5 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas intensity or a 29 per cent share of renewable energy in final energy consumption by 2030, including sub-targets for biofuels. 

‘Prepare for system change’

The increased renewable energy target “sends a clear message to all stakeholders to prepare for system change”, said SolarPower Europe chief executive Walburga Hemetsberger. “That means scaling investment, electricity grids and our workforce,” she added.

Romain Pardo, programme manager at the Corporate Leaders Group, which represents companies supporting net zero ambitions, said it was now time for the EU “to focus on how to truly place renewables at the centre of the energy transition by unlocking the drivers for implementation like finance and skills”. 

“We’re celebrating that the EU has set a path to at least 45 per cent renewables this decade,” Hemetsberger added. Nonetheless, she described the target as “a floor, not a ceiling”, and said SolarPower Europe would be “pushing for more specific, country-level ambition in the review of national energy climate plans” and for higher solar targets. 

“Current NECPs all severely underestimate solar,” Hemetsberger told Sustainable Views. “Our analysis shows over three-quarters of EU countries will have reached their 2030 targets five years early and all of them at least three years early.”

EU must go further

Environmental NGO Climate Action Network Europe said the 45 per cent target failed to reflect “the current trilemma of rising energy costs, energy insecurity and the looming climate crisis”. All eyes should now be on EU member states to go further, “with commitment and delivery on the ground to protect people from energy price volatility, their country from energy insecurity and help Europe achieve climate neutrality”, said Veerle Dossche, energy policy co-ordinator at CAN Europe.

The deal also agreed to make permitting procedures for renewable energy projects easier and faster, recognising renewable energy as an “overriding public interest”, and strengthening criteria aimed at ensuring bioenergy is sustainable.

“The use of biomass is better regulated even if the [European] parliament wanted to go further,” Canfin said.

However, Martin Pigeon, forest and climate campaigner at NGO Fern, said that the deal would continue to “reward energy companies burning millions of trees, our main land carbon sink, which means it will continue to worsen the climate and biodiversity crises, harm people’s health, and actively undermine [the] EU’s climate ambitions”.

“When you’re speeding towards a cliff and close to the edge, reducing your speed just a little won’t save you,” Pigeon added.

The provisional political agreement must now be rubber stamped by the EU Council and the European parliament before it can enter into force. 

A service from the Financial Times