‘This could possibly become the most important piece of legislation for renewable energy – ever,’ Arthouros Zervos, President of the European Council on Renewable Energy (EREC), told an audience in Brussels during January’s EU Sustainable Energy Week.It was last March that leaders from all the EU Member States agreed that Europe should produce 20% of its energy (electric power, heat and transport) from renewable sources by 2020 – compared with 8.5% today. Less than a year later, the European Commission put forward its proposed package on how this could be achieved, along with a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2020. The draft ‘Directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources’ was published on 23 January, but now needs to be accepted by both the European Parliament and by the European Council.
Starting with numbers from 2005, the Commission has cleverly calculated the target percentage contribution of renewables to each country’s energy supply by 2020 – and there is a lot of variation. Sweden, for instance, with a 2005 contribution of 39.8%, is charged with bringing that up to 49% by 2020. Germany – a market leader in virtually all renewables – had a 2005 contribution of 17%, which must reach 30% by 2020. The UK, with a 1.3% contribution in 2005, faces a challenge of 15% by 2020. These are binding targets, meaning that countries face penalties if they fail to achieve the targets. (The draft Directive includes interim targets too, with no penalty attached – more on page 10.)
Assuming that the countries of Europe step up to the challenge – as they must – and the Directive is adopted, then there will be a lot of work to be done. By early 2010 each country needs to have developed its own national action plan, plotting out exactly how it will reach its targets. Countries are free to adopt whatever support schemes they believe will achieve the best results – not only in rapid adoption of large-scale renewables, such as wind, but in promoting and developing markets for the whole gamut of renewables technologies. No single technology can achieve the targets – it’s a matter of silver buckshot, not a silver bullet.
Can the industry face up the challenge? Certainly, say EREC and the other industry associations – in fact, four years ago EREC prepared a blueprint on how to achieve this 20% supply of renewable energy.
Upscaling Europe’s renewables will provide immediate climate benefits, employment, and both experience and technology that can be transferred around the globe. The 2020 targets won’t be the end of the story, but rather just a stepping stone. Tremendous opportunities beckon.
Jackie Jones Chief Editor