After nine months and a long night of negotiations, European heads of state eventually found a compromise on 24 October on a climate and energy package for 2030. European leaders have agreed on a binding target of at least 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels, an EU binding target of at least a 27% share of renewables and a non-binding target of at least a 27% increase in energy efficiency.
The European Commission considered in its Impact Assessment (released in January together with its proposed 2030 package) that a share of 24% renewables by 2030 would represent a business-as-usual scenario, while a 35% target was shown as entirely feasible. The at least 27% target in itself is clearly too low to unlock the full potential of solar and other renewables and falls far short of new Commission President Juncker’s ambition for Europe’s Energy Union to become the world number one in renewable energy. Moreover, a breakdown of the renewables objective into nationally binding targets is not part of the deal, leaving important questions to be solved on the actual enforcement.
However, even if we would have wished for higher ambition, we should see the agreed renewables target as an important political signal that investments in solar should and will continue in Europe. Indeed, since the release of the Commission proposals in January, EPIA and its allies have been continuously working to increase the ambition level and outweigh the intense efforts of different lobby groups and some Member States to weaken and even remove the renewables objective from the climate and energy package. Until the last minute, it was uncertain whether there would be a renewables target and if it would be binding or simply indicative.
In recent years, the solar sector has been facing retroactive and other unplanned measures in several European countries, destabilising many businesses and hampering the development of our technology. Agreed by the 28 heads of state, this binding target is a very positive commitment in favour of a more stable and predictable regulatory framework for future investments in renewables.
In this context, it is very important that the renewables objective now signals the decision makers’ willingness to address the issue of market design in order to create appropriate market conditions allowing solar power and other renewables to continue growing.
A lot still remains to be done in order to make these targets deliver on their promises. We will in particular look very carefully into the long-term regulatory framework the European Commission now has to come up with in order to ensure an effective implementation of the objectives. A meaningful and stable framework will be crucial to allow solar power and other renewables to compete and grow in the energy market far beyond the defined target.