With Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete tweeting that Europe is “upping its game” on climate ambition, the European Union has announced a binding renewable energy target of 32% by 2030, below the 35% originally proposed by the European Parliament but above the 27% put forward by the European Council.
While the deal received positive reviews from SolarPower Europe and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), it was quickly declared inadequate by Friends of the Earth and Climate Action Network Europe, with CAN-E accusing the EU of settling for “baby steps” that leave the Paris Agreement behind.
In addition to the 32% target, the agreement contains “a provision, thought to be the most wide-ranging of its kind, that gives EU citizens the right to produce, consume, store, and sell their own electricity,” Greentech Media reports. “Giving citizens the right to self-consume energy was expected to be a tricky issue,” but “it appears the way forward for the EU self-consumption provision, along with the higher-than-expected final target, was smoothed by a shock change in Spanish government this month.”
Greentech points to the irony that the party that lost power in the Spanish election, the right-wing People’s Party, was the same administration in which Cañete previously served as Minister for Agriculture, Food and Environment.
“The change in Spanish government, in particular, swung the dynamic,” said Friends of the Earth Europe renewable energy campaigner Molly Walsh. “We could see that on Monday, at the Energy Council, many member states were speaking in favour of much higher targets.” Meanwhile, “the German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, rejected anything above a 27% renewable target as unachievable,” Greentech notes, citing a Reuters report.
The wording of the EU deal allows for an increase in the 2030 target by 2023, and CleanTechnica notes that it also calls for a phaseout of palm oil in fuels by the end of next decade.
“The deal is a good one for solar,” and the right to self-generate and store energy “is a major achievement,” said SolarPower Europe CEO James Watson. “We see a much more ambitious target than was expected just a few months ago and, importantly, we have a strong framework for self-consumption and prosumers.”
The European solar industry was also “delighted to see that administrative procedures will be streamlined so that permitting for new installations can take no more than one year,” he added. “This will hugely reduce the soft costs of solar.”
But Walsh said the 32% target, while “a lot better than 27%,” was still little better than business-as-usual reductions on a continent that must be carbon-free by 2050. Against that target, setting an interim goal of just 32% by 2030 is “planning to fail,” she told Greentech.
The EU also decided to refrain from regulating homes and businesses with small solar installations rated at 25 kilowatts or less.
“It’s a driver for more residential and local solar. It will also drive the business case for storage, and partially also EVs,” Solarplaza project manager Thomas Boersma told CleanTechnica. But “this will also increase the urge for a well-functioning market for local energy and flexibility.” With “prosumers” (producers-consumers) balancing their consumption and generation behind the meter, he said grid electricity will become less and less attractive, and “grid defection” will become a real risk.
So “the right mechanisms allowing for local energy trading and the right incentives schemes impelling participation on such markets will be necessary to keep an affordable and reliable grid.”