The EU Renewable Energy Directive – At a glance

07Feb09

In January 2008, the European Commission tabled a new Directive on renewable energy, which is intended to replace the existing measures adopted in 2001. EU Governments reached agreement on the proposed text on 9 December 2009, and the European Parliament adopted the Directive on 17 December 2009.

The Directive requires EU Governments to increase the amount of renewable energy in the bloc’s energy mix from the current level of 8.5% to 20% by 2020. This target applies to total energy used in the electricity, heat and transport sectors. Within the context of this global target for renewable energy, the Directive also requires that a minimum of 10% of transport energy must come from renewable sources.

Each member state has been assigned a national target based upon its share of renewable energy production in 2005 and its per capita GDP. (See the end of this post for the individual targets).

The Directive will also put in place interim targets in order to ensure progress towards the 2020 target.

* 25% of target between 2011 and 2012;

* 35% of target between 2013 and 2014;

* 45% of target between 2015 and 2016, and;

* 65% of target between 2017 and 2018.

Individual member states are free to decide upon the most suitable mix of renewable energy sources to be used to meet their respective targets. Individual member states must submit National Action Plans by 2010 describing how they will achieve the interim and 2020 targets. Individual member states will also be required to report their progress towards the interim and 20020 target every two years, from 2010.

There will be no financial penalties should a member state fail to meet its interim targets. But the European Commission has reserved the right to take legal action against member states if they fail to demonstrate sufficient progress towards the interim targets.

Individual member states will be able to undertake joint measures to meet their respective targets. Individual member states will also be able to import ‘physical’ renewable energy from countries outside the EU (this would provide the possibility of a physical connection with large scale solar installations in North Africa, for example). Individual member states are also permitted to trade any excess renewable energy ‘credits’ it has after meeting its interim targets.

However, the Directive does not recognize ‘virtual’ renewable energy from investments in renewable energy projects in other countries. Nor does the Directive allow for the creation of a European-wide market in renewable energy certificates that many stakeholders had advocated.

The Directive also ‘requests’ that member states encourage the use of small scale renewable energy in buildings and provide priority grid access to renewable energy sources.

National Renewable Energy Targets for Member States

National Renewable Energy Targets for Member States

Within their individual national targets, member states are also required to source 10% of transport energy use from renewable sources. To address concerns over the sustainability of biofuels, the Directive requires that 40% of this target is met by ‘non-food and non-feed competing’ biofuels (which would include renewable electricity or hydrogen from renewable production paths) and that the biofuels must offset a minimum quantity of CO2 with respect to fossil fuels; this portion rising from 35% initially, to 45% by 2013, 50% by 2017 and 60% thereafter. The Directive does not require that CO2 emissions from the indirect landuse impacts of biofuels be taken into account. However, it does ‘request’ the European Commission to put forward proposals that would limit the indirect land use impacts caused by any switch to biofuel production.

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