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REA recommends extension of successful renewable energy targets

European Commission opens debate on 2030 climate and energy framework and reviews current renewables progress and biofuels policies.

The REA welcomes two reports published today by the European Commission: a Green Paper on a 2030 framework for climate and energy policies and a progress report on renewable energy, which also summarises a separate report, to be published shortly, on the social sustainability of EU biofuels policies.

Response to the Commission’s Green Paper on a 2030 framework for climate and energy policies

The REA welcomes an open debate on the 2030 framework, as investment decisions which will decide our energy mix in 2030 – including in the supply chain – are being made today.

The REA strongly supports an extension of existing national renewables targets to 2030. The Green Paper shows that annual growth in renewables has increased since the introduction of indicative targets from 1.9% per annum (1995-2000) to 4.5% per annum (2001-2010).

REA Chief Executive Gaynor Hartnell said:

“It would be a mistake for the European Union to rely solely on a 2030 carbon target to drive the uptake of low-carbon energy. It does not bode well that the EU Emissions Trading Scheme has failed to date to deliver long-term carbon signals. The mandatory renewable energy targets for 2020 are accelerating the deployment of renewable energy across the EU and we need to maintain that momentum by continuing this approach to 2030.

“It is important to remember that renewables are not just about carbon – they improve our energy security, help with the balance of trade, create jobs and contribute to economic growth – plus they can be deployed much faster than other low carbon generation. However, the EU is in danger of falling into the trap of focussing almost exclusively on the power sector, when heat and transport are responsible for the majority of emissions.”

Response to the Commission’s progress report on renewable energy in the EU

The REA, which is the UK partner for the pan-European ‘Keep on track!’ project, welcomes this latest progress report. The report suggests that the EU is broadly on track to meet its renewable energy targets, although it does also raise concerns that particular technologies (e.g. biomass and onshore wind) are deploying more slowly than required. Progress must also be seen in the context of reduced overall energy consumption due to the European economic downturn, which makes the proportion of renewable energy higher than it would otherwise have been.

The UK needs a higher growth rate than almost all other Member States, starting from one of the lowest bases. It is encouraging that the UK is broadly on track to meet its interim 2011-2012 target (with 2010 share of renewables in UK energy at 3.3% in relation to the interim target of 4%). However, most other Member States are actually ahead of schedule and have already met their interim target.

UK project leader for ‘Keep on track!’ Mike Landy said:

“The UK is roughly on track for the 2020 target, but most countries are ahead of their interim targets. The rest of the EU realises the broader benefits of renewables and is powering ahead. The UK must catch up. The prize is 400,000 green jobs in an industry worth £12.5 billion in 2020. We need joined up, consistent political support from across Government to send a clear message to investors that the UK is serious about green growth.”

Response to the Commission’s assessment of the sustainability of EU biofuels policies

Biofuels and bioliquids are subject to strict sustainability criteria in order to count towards the EU’s 2020 targets. Within the progress report published today the Commission assessed the sustainability of EU biofuels, as part of a wider report expected shortly on the social sustainability of the increased demand of biofuels.

REA Head of Renewable Transport Clare Wenner said:

“The Commission’s assessment has highlighted the sustainable nature of biofuels produced and used in the EU. This is in stark contrast to recent stories which have wrongly linked biofuels to high food prices and poor GHG savings.

“The analysis shows that biofuels in fact have had only a minor effect on global commodity prices, and that biofuel demand is in fact more price sensitive than the food market, meaning that use of crops for biofuels actually declines as food prices increase. Biofuels used in the EU consume only 3 million hectares of the 1.5 billion hectares of total arable land available worldwide [6]. Today’s report also shows that over 80% of biofuels consumed in Europe is produced within the EU.

“The report confirms that biofuels encourage best agricultural practices through voluntary schemes, generate much needed jobs (220,000 in the EU and 1.4 million internationally), and have contributed to significant carbon savings estimated at 25.5 Mt CO2eq. Beyond 2020, first generation biofuels have a significant role to play in contributing to GHG reductions in the transport sector, which is responsible for 25% of the UK’s emissions. Support for first generation biofuels in the short to medium term will help to stimulate much needed investment in second generation biofuels.”


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