EU plans to drop state renewable energy goals

Republic’s commitment to renewable energy remains on track, says Rabbitte

Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte: pointed out that targets had not been ruled out.

Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte: pointed out that targets had not been ruled out.


in Brussels

Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has insisted that the State’s commitment to renewable energy remains on track, despite yesterday’s proposal by the European Commission to abandon mandatory renewable targets for member states after 2020.

The European Commission’s long-awaited climate and energy package published yesterday removed an obligation on countries to adhere to country-specific renewable energy targets for 2030, though it backed a 27 per cent overall target for the EU.

This will give countries “flexibility” on how to contribute to the EU’s renewable targets based on national energy plans that will be worked out between member states and the European Union.

The new proposal – which could still be subject to substantial changes as it makes its way through the EU legislative system – replaces current EU legislation which stipulates that 20 per cent of all EU energy consumption must come from renewable sources by 2020, with specific targets set out for member states.

While European Commission officials pointed out that no mandatory legislative targets were envisaged at this stage, Mr Rabbitte pointed out that targets had not been ruled out, and that the proposal must now be discussed by member states, with EU leaders scheduled to discuss the issue in March.

He added that the package has no impact on Ireland’s renewable targets before 2020.

“For Ireland it makes sense to reduce import costs and to use resources that are renewable and indigenous to Ireland,” he said, pointing out that the State’s annual import bill for fossil fuels is more than €6 billion.

Energy prices
The high cost of energy for consumers in the EU, particularly compared with the US, where energy prices have fallen sharply due in part to shale gas, has focused attention on the renewable industry, which is heavily subsidised in most countries. With subsidies pushing up the price of energy for consumers, some member states are concerned about the impact on European competitiveness.

Britain, which has been increasing its investment in nuclear power, was one of the countries strongly opposed to a binding renewable target, with prime minister David Cameron arguing that a binding target could cost consumers €9 billion a year.

Britain’s resistance to renewable energy targets has stoked concerns about its commitment to the State’s plans to export wind energy to Britain.

Unveiling the proposal yesterday, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso said that the proposal was “ambitious and realistic,” but environmental NGOs were strongly dismissive, with Greenpeace calling the proposal a “sell-out”.

Emissions reduction
However, defenders of the proposal pointed out that an overall emissions reduction target of 40 per cent was the best that could be achieved with a number of member states and commissioners – including energy commissioner Günther Oettinger – favouring a lower level of 35 per cent.

The commission also unveiled a recommendation on shale gas yesterday but stopped short of introducing a legislative proposal that would impose regulations on individual countries. Britain and Poland are among the countries exploring shale gas options.