November 30th, 2016 by Stephen Hanley
The European Union will start to phase out coal subsidies and reduce its energy usage by 30% before 2030 pursuant to the terms of a major clean energy package announced in Brussels on November 30. The 1,000 page long agreement is a blueprint for implementing the promises the EU made to the global community at the COP 21 climate summit in Paris a year ago. Among other benefits, it expects to lower household utility bills, integrate renewables into power markets, and limit use of unsustainable bio-energy.
The EU’s climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said that the new energy efficiency target was a centerpiece of the package. He said it would curb energy imports, create jobs, and lower area 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 EU’s vice president for energy union, Maroš Šefčovič 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.”
Will Britain adopt the new clean energy measures before it withdraws from the European Union 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. 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.”
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.
Tara Connolly, a spokesperson for Greenpeace, gave the package only the most tepid endorsement as some 280 existing coal plants and 13 planned new ones could still benefit from the current system throughout most of the current decade and the next. “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.”
The WindEurope trade association welcomed the package as “more good than bad” on balance. But it still called for EU nations to apply pressure for an increased renewable energy target before the proposals become law.
The fossil fuels industry was more grudging in its assessment. 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.”
It’s not easy reaching agreements that are acceptable to all EU stakeholders. Much of the package balances the contrasting demands of fossil fuel-dependent countries and industries and those such as Germany and Denmark which already have advanced plans to decarbonize.
The Guardian reports that “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 decarbonization. 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.”
In politics, two steps forward and one step back are the norm.
Source: The Guardian
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