On 18 December 2017, the European Council adopted its position on a directive promoting the use of renewable energy across the EU. This agreement paves the way for the Council to start negotiations with the European Parliament as soon as its negotiating mandate is agreed.
The EU is committed to reach a target of at least 27% renewable energy of its overall energy consumption by 2030. This directive, in line with the guidelines of the European Council from October 2014, confirms this binding target and puts in place the appropriate framework and tools to achieve that goal.
The new legislation addresses bioenergy, sustainability, transport, electricity, heating and cooling, and in particular, focuses on empowering consumers. Facilitating and enhancing consumers' use of renewables is a key element in the Council's position.
"This decision has a direct and positive impact on all Europeans. Using more renewable energy will help our cities, industries and houses become cleaner, healthier and more sustainable. The directive will also make it easier for consumers to take the initiative and become producers themselves. Through a combination of action by governments, companies and consumers, we will be able to maintain our global leadership in renewables." Kadri Simson, Minister for Economic Affairs and Infrastructure of the Republic of Estonia.
The main elements of the Council's general approach are as follows:
- Consumers will benefit from simplified notification procedures for small-scale installations, and the rights and obligations of 'renewable self-consumers' as well as renewable energy communities are now clearly set out.
- Regarding heating and cooling, member states will have to adopt measures to achieve an indicative annual 1 percentage point increase in the share of renewable energy. As existing national systems and installations differ widely across the EU in this respect, this is taken into account in the Council text. In particular, it reflects the specific characteristics of 'cooling' installations in warmer climates.
- In the transport sector, the renewables target for 2030 is set at 14% for each member state, and there is a sub-target of 3% for ‘advanced biofuels’, for which double-counting will be allowed. This advanced biofuels target has an intermediate binding milestone of 1% in 2025 to increase investment security and guarantee the availability of fuels throughout the period. Electromobility is strongly encouraged by two multipliers of 5x for renewable electricity used in road transport, and of 2x for rail transport. The existing 7% cap on first-generation biofuels is maintained to provide certainty to investors. If a member state sets a lower cap, it will be rewarded with the option of lowering its overall target for renewables in transport.
The directive also clarifies rules concerning the sustainability criteria and greenhouse gas emissions saving criteria that apply to biofuels, bioliquids and biomass fuels.
Member states will have the possibility of opening up their national support schemes across borders to generators of renewable energy in other member states, but the final decision on this will remain with them. In relation to investments in renewable energy, the Council text, like the Commission's proposal, addresses the stability of financial support by preventing unjustified retroactive changes to support schemes.
Timeline and next steps
On 30 November 2016, the Commission submitted the clean energy package. Its eight legislative proposals, including the renewable energy directive, aim at implementing the 2015 strategy for an Energy Union with a forward-looking climate policy.
The package as a whole was presented at the Energy Council meeting of December 2016. EU ministers had a first exchange of views on the entire package in February 2017 and assessed the progress made on governance, renewable energy and the electricity market design in June 2017.
The European Parliament is expected to agree on its negotiating mandate for this directive in the beginning of next year. The Council stands ready to start negotiations immediately after.
Source: European Council
Ana Crespo Parrondo
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