License: All rights reserved. Credit: Will Rose

Eight European ministers call for a 2030 renewables target

Christine Ottery
EU Energydesk editor. Previously worked for the Guardian and New Scientist.

Ok, we know this picture is kind of odd.

Ministers from eight EU member states have urged the European Commission to include a ‘robust’ renewables target in its 2030 energy and climate plan.

The eight energy ministers sent a letter to EU commissioner for climate action Connie Hedegaard and energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger before Christmas stating that a 2030 renewables target would be the ‘no regrets option’ for the EU’s energy system.

This comes amid reports that the EC is considering only a 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target and no binding renewables or energy efficiency targets.

The ministers - from Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Ireland and Portugal – said a renewables target will “strengthen European competitiveness and lead to more jobs and growth”. A leaked EU report claimed that half a million green jobs could be at risk if the target is not implemented.

In the letter ministers also argued the target will be essential for strengthening the European internal energy market.

The argument is that renewables will reduce the EU's reliance on energy imports but work most efficiently when deployed on an EU wide basis allowing the grid to be developed to minimise costs to the consumer (the wind is usually blowing, or the sun shining, somewhere in Europe). The UK's energy secretary recently argued that greater interconnection between countries was a solution to high energy prices.

The ministers called for the Commission to “draw lessons from past experience” that the binding renewables target to 2020 has been successful, and therefore a 2030 target is needed  - along with an ambitious greenhouse gas emissions one - to drive the further deployment of renewables in Europe. Renewables have been responsible for 40-50% of carbon savings made in Europe between 2008-12, according to environment consultancy CDC Climat Research.  

The Commission is due to publish its white paper on 2030 targets on 22 January. The paper will then be discussed at the spring summit of EU governments in March 2014, where it the targets could be agreed – or these issues could be decided in June at another summit. It will be left to the new Commission, coming in in November 2014, to move the discussion forwards and start drafting legislative proposals.

The ministers – which represent represent around half of the EU's population - that signed the letter are:

  • Reinhold Mitterlehner, Federal Minister of Economy, Family and Youth and Federal Minister of Science and Research, Austria
  • Melchior Wathelet, Secretary of State for Environment, Energy and Mobility, Belgium
  • Martin Lidegaard, Minister for Climate, Energy and Building, Denmark
  • Philippe Martin, Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, France
  • Sigmar Gabriel, Minister for Economy and Energy, Germany
  • Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Ireland
  • Andrea Orlando, Minister for Environment, Land and Sea, Italy
  • Jorge Moreira da Silva, Minister for Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy, Portugal

In related news, eight energy companies - Gamesa, Acciona Energía, Alstom, Dong Energy, EnBW, ERG, Res and Vestas - recently called for a European target of more than 30% of energy coming from renewable sources.

The firms, which represent 176,000 jobs and over €250 billion annual turnover, said: “It will bring down our energy and electricity bills, and help remove the need for renewable energy support in future.”

Update: The original story said the eight ministers called for a binding 2030 renewables target, but they were asking for a renewables target with no mention of binding or non-binding targets.

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