A unique opportunity for EU to regain global renewable leadership post-2020.
The European Commission (EC) has just rolled out a public consultation, open until May 4, in the preparatory phase of the new renewable energy directive (REDII) for the period 2020-2030. AEBIOM, together with other EU renewable energy associations, calls on the EC to seize the opportunity to reflect the COP21 ambitions and agree on ambitious measures to go beyond the 27 percent renewables energy target by 2030. There is no doubt that bioenergy and other RES technologies are well positioned to deliver on this.
In the development of its Energy Union Framework Strategy, the European Commission (EC) announced a new renewable energy package for the period post 2020, including a new renewable energy directive (REDII) with 2030 targets and an updated EU bioenergy sustainability policy. In its preparation, the EC launched a wide consultation on the new renewable energy directive that AEBIOM responded to. This review was a good opportunity to look back on achievements and lessons learnt.
Thus far, in spite of some specific sectorial concerns, most observers would agree that the first renewable energy directive (RED) allowed renewable energy operators to organise and plan investments within a stable medium term regulatory framework. The RED, at the time pioneering, has encouraged Member States (MS) to support RES projects, sometimes through financial incentives necessary to gain maturity and face competition with fossil-derived energy. This stability and support was a strong signal for economic operators who answered the call en masse, allowing the EU to achieve, and even exceed, its general objective in several MS. On this basis, it can be said with confidence that the RED has been a success.
However, a political signal is not made to last and it needs to be revived when the time comes. Indeed, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) “Annual Clean Investment” report, investment in renewable energy assets in the EU fell by 18 percent in 2015 reaching its lowest level since 2006, and this is mainly due to an unstable policy framework, both at EU and national level. Up until today, when one asks key bioenergy industry players from all corners of Europe, two main concerns are raised: a lack of regulatory visibility after 2020 and the retroactivity of national support schemes. In this context, the outcomes of COP21 are an opportunity not to be missed, and should be used for the EU to renew its momentum.
Today, what RES market players need, above all, is a strong positive message and a real long-term vision within the framework of this new renewable energy directive. Both RES technologies and market players are ready to deliver. With this in mind AEBIOM has thrown its weight behind an ambitious post-2020 renewable energy package that fosters a vibrant home market, with clear growth perspectives, and asserts the EU’s leadership in renewables in the face of rising international competition. However, we think that the EU renewable energy sector can deliver more than the 27 percent 2030 target set until now by the Commission and Member States. We also regret that the EU target is not translated into nationally legally binding targets.
In addition to these key concerns AEBIOM is advocating a pragmatic approach that enables reassurance for market players: Firstly, it’s always good to remind that we should meet the 2020 objectives (20 percent RES). Secondly, we need to build on the existing RED and seek to improve it. Thirdly, the recent EU Heating and Cooling strategy is welcome, as the sector represents 50 percent of our final energy consumption. It could be decarbonised with RES H&C sources like biomass, and this should be taken into account in the REDII. An important role is played by the building sector here, with the residential sector representing 45 percent of final H&C consumption. Minimum share of RES should be required for new buildings and long-term renovation strategies of existing buildings should be established at MS level to address existing buildings. Finally, an important barrier to the deployment of RES today is low fossil fuel prices and the continuous support to fossil fuels, which reduces RES competitiveness, particularly in the H&C sector. Fossil fuel subsidies should be phased-out urgently and carbon outside the ETS sectors should be priced, as is already done today in several Member States that have introduced a carbon tax.
Overall, we need coherence, with long-term EU climate and energy objectives (i.e. 80-95 percent GHG emissions reduction by 2050) in order to avoid risking technology lock-in or stranded assets in fossil fuel infrastructure.
Without a doubt, 2016 will be a key year for the bioenergy sector at EU level, politically speaking, as it will also see the development of an EU bioenergy sustainability policy as announced by the Commission. The Commission is currently consulting on this issue. AEBIOM will, of course, provide inputs. In this context, possibly more than ever, AEBIOM needs your support and feedback to ensure a sustainable development path for the bioenergy sector.
Text: Jean-Baptiste Boucher, Head of Communications, AEBIOM