Energy is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU and accounts for more than three-quarters of EU greenhouse gas emissions. It covers electricity production, heating and transport – all essential to everyday life. Increasing renewable energy is key to drastically cutting power sector emissions and reaching the EU’s ambitious target of climate neutrality by 2050.

The development of renewable energy sources is also a way for EU countries to be less dependent on energy imports and less vulnerable to disruptions that can affect prices. In parallel, the EU is working on energy-saving measures.

Increasing EU targets for the use of renewable energy

More than 20% of the energy consumed in the EU comes from renewable sources. This has more than doubled since 2004. The EU’s current 32% target for 2030 is being revised up along with updated targets for buildings, heating and cooling and industry. In September 2022, Parliament demanded an increase to 45% by 2030. In the context of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and to tackle EU dependence on Russian fossil fuels, Parliament is expected to vote on additional measures to accelerate the share of renewables in the EU well ahead of 2030 in December. These proposed measures include:

  • Reducing red tape and time for the granting of permits for renewables projects and repowering of plants and new installations
  • Gradually phasing out fuels derived from primary woody biomass
  • Speeding up the deployment of solar energy equipment in artificial structures
  • Rolling out large numbers of new heat pumps by 2030 to reduce the use of gas in the heating sector.
Betting on renewable hydrogen

When hydrogen is used as an energy source, it does not emit greenhouse gases, meaning it could help to decarbonise sectors where it is hard to decrease CO2 emissions. It is estimated that hydrogen could supply 20-50% of the EU’s energy demand in transport and 5-20% in the industry by 2050. However, in order to be sustainable, hydrogen must be produced by renewable electricity. MEPs have insisted on the importance of a clear distinction between renewable and low-carbon hydrogen as well as on phasing out fossil-based hydrogen. MEPs advocate a ramping up of hydrogen along with a simpler system for guaranteeing its origin, in their plans for the update of the EU’s renewable rules.

Boosting offshore renewable energy

Currently, wind is the only offshore renewable energy source used on a commercial scale, but the EU is looking into other sources, such as tidal and wave power, floating solar energy and algae for biofuels. The European Commission has proposed an EU strategy to dramatically increase the production of electricity from offshore renewable sources. Offshore wind capacity alone would grow from 12GW today to 300GW by 2050. Parliament will set out its position later.

Opting for alternative fuels

As road transport accounts for about a fifth of the EU’s carbon emissions, the EU wants to replace fossil fuels with renewable and low-carbon fuels. For example, renewable fuels include biomass fuels and biofuels, and synthetic and paraffinic fuels, including ammonia, produced from renewable energy. In addition, the switch to zero-emission vehicles must go hand in hand with a comprehensive infrastructure of recharging and refuelling stations. In October 2022, Parliament adopted its position on the rules concerning the necessary infrastructure to make recharging and refuelling stations more accessible across Europe. MEPs want electric charging areas for cars at least once every 60 kilometres along main EU roads by 2026 and charging areas for trucks and buses once every 60 kilometres by 2026.

Funding green energy infrastructures

The EU has revised its its rules on the funding of cross-border energy infrastructure projects in order to meet its climate goals. The new rules are aimed at phasing out EU funding for natural gas projects and redirect money to hydrogen infrastructure and carbon capture and storage. The rules entered into force in June 2022. MEPs successfully pushed for more offshore renewable energy projects and facilitating their integration into EU networks. All new infrastructure projects must contribute to EU climate targets for 2030 and 2050, effectively ending EU support for fossil fuel based infrastructure.

Ensuring a fair energy transition for everyone

To support vulnerable households and small businesses during this energy transition, the EU wants to set up the Social Climate Fund, with an estimated budget of €16.4 billion until 2027, potentially reaching €72 billion by 2032. The Fund would include incentives to switch to renewables as well as measures to reduce energy taxes and fees, incentives to renovate buildings and car-sharing and the development of a second-hand market for electrical vehicles. Parliament is in negotiations with EU governments on the fund.

Source: European Parliament