EU deal to accelerate adoption of electric vehicles

Target of 32% for renewable energy sought

New EU deal on renewable energy should see more electric vehicles being used.

New EU deal on renewable energy should see more electric vehicles being used.

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A new EU target for renewable energy is expected to lead to an accelerated adoption of electric vehicles, but has been strongly criticised by Irish agriculture interests.

The deal, which seeks a bloc-wide target of 32 per cent for renewable energy by 2030, should also see expanded solar and wind energy use.

The agreement includes a tightening of rules on biofuels used in transport, notably crop-based fuels such as palm oil. It also includes a range of “citizen energy” measures including the exemption of rooftop solar panels of under 25 kilowatts from grid charges. A new target of 14 per cent renewable energy in transport including incentives for EVs has been set.

Forged between the European Parliament and European Council under the revised Renewable Energy Directive, it followed intensive negotiations which ended at 4am on Thursday.

Negotiations

Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly, who led negotiations for the European People’s Party, said it would help provide secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy for Europe. With the Paris Climate Agreement in place, combined with falling costs of renewables, it was clear the council and commission’s proposed 27 per cent target “was outdated”, he added.

The agreement “will empower consumers to fully participate in the switch to renewables” through generating and selling their own electricity. Member states will be obliged to support “renewable energy communities”, which were designed to put ownership and control of wind farms, for example, into the hands of local populations, he said.

Trade body WindEurope said the more ambitious target would lead to substantial additional investment in wind resources. The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) welcomed the deal but called on Minister for Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten to adopt a 70 per cent target by 2030 for electricity generation using renewables.

IWEA chief executive David Connolly said: “Last year wind energy alone provided more than 26 per cent of Ireland’s electricity needs but we must continue investing in onshore wind energy, to grow our offshore portfolio and to support development of other renewable energy technologies.”

A 70 per cent target was possible and cost-effective, he said, “but we need more leadership from the Government, a greater sense that the scale of the challenge – and the opportunity – before us is understood and the determination to meet it.”

Mr Naughten has called on the EU to become as “self-sufficient as possible in terms of energy” with a focus on renewable energy and driving energy efficiency. Speaking in Luxembourg at an energy ministers’ meeting earlier this week, he said this was not just necessary to meet climate targets but would ensure EU economies grew sustainably.

“We see the euro zone economy beginning to slow down as a direct result of rising oil prices. We must decouple economic growth from oil availability and price. Using renewable energy and improving the efficient use of energy across our economies releases the EU from the constraining impact of fossil fuels,” he said.

Biofuels

He emphasised the need for the EU to become self-sufficient in biofuels. “We cannot replace imported oil with unsustainable imported palm oil, this undermines our long-term economic sustainability as well as transferring emissions to another part of the globe. We must bring renewed focus to the development of second-generation biofuels which are based on waste streams, thereby having a double impact on our environment.”

Mr Naughten supported measures to drive greater use of electricity in road transport and better mechanisms to install renewables on buildings to support micro-generation and self-consumption by families and businesses.

Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers’ Association president Patrick Kent said, however, the deal was “the worst type of incoherent policy making, where neither the interests of European agriculture nor significant reductions in transport emissions have prevailed”.

Crop-based biofuels were needed to help put a floor under cereal producer prices which if allowed to fall further “will ultimately result in EU farmers reducing or ceasing production altogether”. In phasing out palm oil by 2030, “there was no need to undermine sustainable crop-based biofuels as well, and shrug it off as collateral damage”, he said.

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