The EU is to have carbon emissions targets, but nothing binding in terms of renewables or efficiency for specific member states. Craig Morris reports on what one energy expert in Brussels thinks the effect might be on the German Energiewende.
The EU plans to have binding targets for carbon emissions, but only a 27 percent target for the share of renewable energy by 2030 – without specific targets for each member state. Recently, I wrote that this proposal might not upset too many Energiewende campaigners in Germany. After all, Germany’s energy transition has been about democracy all along. If the British want to see what a future based on shale gas and nuclear is like, shouldn’t they be allowed to? The Germans will continue their transition to renewables along with a nuclear phaseout, with a coal phaseout probably not really kicking in until afterwards – in 2022. At least then we will know what these two options look like when implemented.
But some of my colleagues below the top level of government in Germany were not convinced. They warned me that it might be hard to get support for renewables from the German Industry Ministry without a mandate from Brussels. And indeed, the target for renewables was part of the justification behind the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) ruling that feed-in tariffs for renewables do not constitute legal state aid, but are instead a policy to reach mandatory targets. Is the door now open for the ECJ to rule feed-in tariffs illegal? And what else could happen?
In a recent interview with German climate change website Klimaretter, Claude Turmes, deputy whip of the Greens in the European Parliament from Luxembourg, confirmed that the current proposal is largely supported by the UK (“Barroso’s approach is actually British Prime Minister David Cameron’s”); he believes there is broader support among the member states for the 2030 goals to include efficiency and renewables along with carbon emissions, “including Germany, France, and Belgium.” Recently, French President Hollande called for a sort of European Airbus for solar – a partnership specifically between Germany and France.
Turmes says the 40 percent carbon reduction target lacks ambition anyway. “There are so many allowances in circulation that the carbon price will remain just below €10 per ton even with back-loading and the strategic reserve.… Coal plants will then continue to run full blast in Germany over the next few years – an absurdity that calls into question the credibility of German climate policy.”
Perhaps the most interesting thing about that interview is that Turmes says the original proposal contained a specific target for efficiency, but “I worked with others to get it taken out.” The proposed new target was 25 percent, “a completely ridiculous number which would have led to less, not more energy efficiency.”
Right now, of course, the targets for 2030 are not law, but just proposals. As the policy take shape, it will be interesting to see what others think the impact on the Energiewende will be – stay tuned…