European Commission in favour of 2030 renewable energy target?

Significant news for the renewable energy industry in Europe emerged yesterday after Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Change, again stated that we should “be discussing a renewable energy target for 2030”, in an interview with the Guardian. In April, Hedegaard made a similar statement in a Danish magazine, but again without making a concrete proposal.

This is not the first time a Commissioner has broached the subject of a 2030 target for renewable energy. Günther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for Energy, recently said ”We will have….a proposal from the Commission side for a long-term [renewable energy] target for 2030 and 2040 and 2050”.

While the EU has fixed renewable energy targets for 2020 – to produce 20% of energy from renewables – beyond that there are no targets for renewables. The EU does, however, have two commitments: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050, and to continue to reduce the emissions cap for all sectors covered by the European Emissions Trading System (ETS).

The European Wind Energy Association has argued for fixed targets for 2030. A binding 2030 renewable energy target could take the EU’s power sector from an expected 34% renewable electricity in 2020 to 100% renewables by 2050, which would be the most effective way of ensuring that the EU is able to continue reducing its greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020 and achieve a fully decarbonised power sector by 2050 as proposed in the Commission’s recently published ‘Roadmap for a Low Carbon Economy by 2050’.

A report entitled ‘EU energy policy to 2050’ published by EWEA in March calls for a binding and ambitious renewable energy target for 2030.

In addition, EREC, the European Renewable Energy Council, will release a major report on 24 May, in which a specific EU renewable energy target for 2030 will be proposed.

Such a target could help the world avoid the 2°C temperature rise that scientists have identified as dangerous. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the EU and other industrialised regions must reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40% to give us a 50% chance of avoiding this temperature rise.

The dangers of ‘fracking’

Hedegaard’s interview in the Guardian newspaper raised an additional concern. The Guardian reported that she was suggesting a 2030 renewable energy target in response to “lobbying efforts by the gas industry”. The gas industry is apparently claiming that shale gas extracted from rock by ‘fracking’ could provide enough power for another two centuries, according to the Guardian.

Rémi Gruet, European Wind Energy Association – EWEA’s senior climate change policy advisor, explained that ‘fracking’ is highly contentious since there is evidence that it causes gas to leak into local water supplies. There have been cases in the US where enough gas seeps into the water supply so that if you were to hold a lit match to a tap, it would ignite. Furthermore, the process involves the use of over 600 toxic chemicals that could contaminate soil and water and would probably not meet the tough standards outlined in EU’s water framework directive, Gruet said.

By Zoë Casey,