EU legislators vote for a sharply increased renewable energy target

The EU has voted to increase renewable energy’s share in the EU to over 40% by 2030, and to ease permitting procedures. This comes as solar and wind power groups have warned that they face bankruptcy.

The European Parliament’s decision on Tuesday to raise the share of renewable energy in the energy of the EU from 30 to 42,5% by 2030 is part of a global drive to accelerate clean electricity.

However, the day before, European solar panel manufacturers claimed that they were facing bankruptcy due to “ferocious competition” by Chinese companies, which benefitted from massive state subsidies and low-cost labour.

After last-minute concessions to France and Eastern European countries about nuclear energy – which is low carbon, but produces radioactive debris – the EU agreed on a new target.

Applause greeted the outcome after nearly three quarters of lawmakers voted for the rules despite some opposition by rightwing politicians. Many French legislators abstained.

In addition, the legislation stated that national authorities could only approve renewables projects after two years if they are deemed to have a public interest overriding them and if their permitting procedures were simplified.

Kadri SIMSON, EU energy commissioner, stated that the new target is “the right message to attract massive investment” and “the [new] permitting procedures will be a major game changer for renewable deployment”.

According to the European Commission, about 130GW of renewable projects – equivalent to 120bn cubic meters of gas – are waiting for approval in the EU.

The leaders of G20 countries, who are responsible for 80 percent of greenhouse gas emission, have agreed to triple renewable energy capacity before 2030. However, they failed to establish a deadline for the phase-out of fossil fuels.

After the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has been steadily cutting off its gas supplies to Brussels.

Final approval was delayed after France pushed to better recognize nuclear power which accounts for about three quarters of the country’s energy mix.

In the end, some small concessions were made on ammonia production from nuclear energy. The Paris hold-up is part of a wider trend where member states are seeking to carve out climate laws that impact their energy mix.

Germany has secured higher allowances for so called efuels for automobiles as part of rules to phase out combustion engines by 2035. Meanwhile, Poland is suing European Commission for a set of regulations it claims threatens its energy security.

The EU’s Green Deal is a climate law that aims to make the EU a leader of environmental regulations. Since its announcement in 2019 the EU has been falling behind in the race to develop clean technologies as it competes with the huge subsidies offered by China and the US.

Markus Pieper, the German politician who led the negotiations for the renewables legislation said: “We should be careful here in the EU.” “We have twice as many renewables as the rest of the world, but only the EU had 24 percent in its energy mix last year. . . Installed half the capacity of wind turbines compared to global average.”

He called for an import strategy for green hydrogen, recognizing that the EU will not be able produce all its clean energy at home.

Environmentalists have been outraged by the EU renewables law which includes criteria for hydrogen production and allows for biomass to be burned for energy.

“Burning wood and other biomass resources that are scarce and valuable can put EU climate and environment targets at risk,” said Elise Attal. She is the head of EU policy for Principles for Responsible Investor, an agency backed by the UN.

She said that a future revision of renewable energy rules is already being worked on by policymakers. This will “exclude any tax benefits or support for biomass heating and power production”, she added.

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