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EU on Track to Meet 2020 Clean Energy Targets, But…

Herman Trabish's picture
Greentech Media

Herman K. Trabish, D.C., was a Doctor of Chiropractic in private practice for two decades but finally realized his strategy to fix the planet one person at a time was moving too slowly. An...

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  • Apr 14, 2013
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The newest European Union (EU) statistics from Eurostat show its member nations are on track to meet their renewables targets but will need a new policy boost to keep up the pace.

Watching the EU’s cumulative progress toward its “triple twenty by 2020” targets is important because its leaders, especially Germany and Spain, set the benchmark for policy support of renewables internationally.

The EU’s “triple twenty by 2020” standard is aimed at getting 20 percent of their power from renewables, improving efficiency 20 percent, and  cutting greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent.

The EU renewables mix is composed of onshore and offshore wind, photovoltaic solar, concentrating solar and solar hot water, hydro, wave, and tidal power, geothermal, and biomass used to generate electricity or produce biofuels.

The March 27 Report from the Commission to the European Parliament said policies to date have “resulted in strong growth.” Renewables accounted for 12.7 percent of the EU’s energy in 2010 and “the majority of Member States already reached their respective 2011/2012 interim target.”

One exception: The report found efforts to meet the EU’s requirement that each state’s transportation sector be 10 percent biofuel-powered by 2020 to be “too slow.” It added, however, that “further specific policy intervention” to drive that transition is not needed.

But because the policies that have driven progress to date require a ramping growth trajectory, it said, “current policies alone will be insufficient to trigger the required renewable energy deployment.”

The report recommended policy advances in three areas:

 

Falling short of the 2020 renewables targets will have “major consequences,” the report said, because

  • Renewables are the foundation on which emissions reductions and efficiency advances will be built
  • Only with renewables can the EU transition from fossil fuel dependence to energy supply security and sustainability
  • Falling short of binding targets could trigger European Commission infringement procedures against individual states
  • Impeding renewables deployment would slow innovation and scaling and prevent EU technologies from achieving the competitive pricing necessary to win a place in the international market.

 

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Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on Apr 14, 2013

I think it is important to point out a few reality checks:

“Renewables are the foundation on which emissions reductions and efficiency advances will be built”

From a global perspective, EU emissions reductions through slow penetration of expensive renewables will be nothing but a drop in the CO2 ocean. Under current trends, the EU will be responsible for about 6.5% of global emissions by 2020 (extrapolated from BP statistical review data). If the EU wants to make a meaningful contribution to climate change mitigation, it must develop and demonstrate rapidly scalable and affordable low carbon technologies (i.e., CCS & nuclear) it can sell to China and India who, under current trends, will be responsible for over 40% of global emissions by 2020.

Expensive renewables will drive some efficiency advances through even higher energy prices, but most CO2 reductions in the EU will be the result of continued economic contraction. Given the aging European population, the sky-high unemployment and the growing mountain of debt, this austerity-based emissions reduction strategy is unlikely to last much longer. 

“Only with renewables can the EU transition from fossil fuel dependence to energy supply security and sustainability”

Energy independence through renewables is simply impossible for most European countries due to high population densities and per capita consumption and poor renewable energy resources (especially solar). See for example the case of Britain in Prof. MacKay’s very insightful free ebook: http://www.withouthotair.com/c18/page_109.shtmlIn addition, the most abundant renewable source, solar power, contributes virtually nothing in winter months, especially as you move north through Europe. 

At best therefore, Europe’s energy dependence on the Middle East and North Africa will transition from oil to solar power transported through thousands of kilometres of HVDC cables and countless AC/DC converter stations, bringing economic and geopolitical implications dwarfing those currently associated with oil. 

“Falling short of binding targets could trigger European Commission infringement procedures against individual states”

Well, we have seen how effective the EU is at enforcing its own regulations. The best example is how many Southern states consistently exceeded the 3% Maastricht budget deficit ceiling for many years, obviously resulting in the debt crisis faced today. 

“Impeding renewables deployment would slow innovation and scaling and prevent EU technologies from achieving the competitive pricing necessary to win a place in the international market”

Europe can never hope to underprice China when it comes to wind and solar energy. Due to their modular nature, solar panels and wind turbines are now becoming globally traded commodities and cheap Chinese labour and even cheaper Chinese coal-fired electricity grant them an unassailable economic advantage. The only (and very important) place where Europe can realistically contribute is through basic RD&D, selling IP and know-how into the global energy market. This will be driven by reseach funding, not the rate of renewables deployment in Europe. 

I K's picture
I K on Apr 15, 2013

Its also important to note that in those figures are included such green fuels like importing Canadian trees to burn in the UK.

And also hydro stations which were already in place.

Would be more fair to state how much is from each source but that would look  worse for wind and solar. 

And with Germany closing her nukes they would have just traded solar and wind for nuclear power rather than coal or gas

 

Ron Wagner's picture
Ron Wagner on Apr 19, 2013

The EU has failed in keeping up with the U.S. progress in reducing CO2 and real pollutants. They are importing our coal to burn. Fortunately they have seen the light, and will be fracking soon. 

References: https://docs.google.com/document/d/19Yf0MWpo91vrlu-mmJtjB1ERukjJo5W41oi4RZVQBug/edit

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