S.4.1. The Renewable Energy Directive

D.4.1. The Renewable Energy Directive

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EU strikes deal on new RES Directive after trilogue on Energy Efficiency fails

Friday, June 15, 2018

The negotiators agreed on a EU-wide 32% RES target for 2030 but failed to reach an agreement on the energy efficiency file

In the early hours of 14 June, during the final trilogue on the RES Directive, the Council, the MEPs from the ITRE Committee, and the EC reached an important compromise and stroke a deal on a legally-binding EU-wide 32% RES target and a complete phase-out of palm oil use in transport by 2030.

The agreement additionally includes a 14% target for RES in transport by 2030, which aims at boosting the adoption of electric vehicles in the EU. Other issues that were under heated debate during the talks are the RES self-consumption rules, which would exempt small-scale RES installations of 25 kW from certain grid charges, and the definition of “renewable energy communities”. The former was praised by certain environmental groups and by the solar PV industry, as it is expected to allow for the wider adoption of solar panels across the EU. It also enables citizens, small businesses and cooperatives to produce, consume, store, and sell their own renewable energy without being penalised or excessively taxed.

Although some parts of the agreement, such as the self-consumption rule were praised by stakeholders and observers alike, the achieved RES deal came under significant critique by NGOs like Greenpeace and WWF who stated not only that the new target is not ambitious enough but that the new bioenergy rules would even “put both the climate and forests worldwide at risk [by] increasing greenhouse gas emissions even more than fossil fuels would do”.

On the other hand, the talks on the Energy Efficiency Directive held prior to those on the RES Directive fell apart: the inter-institutional negotiators failed to reach common ground on a number of proposals, including the main target. The primary issue remained the overall target for which the EP was not willing to go lower than 32,5% energy savings by 2030 and 0,84% annual savings, while the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council stated that it did not have the required mandate to raise the target that high.

The tough trilogues came after heated debates at the public session of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy (TTE) Council in Luxembourg between the Member States’ diplomats on the proposals from the “Clean Energy for All Europeans” Package. At the 11 June meeting, the Energy Ministers discussed the three on-going files – the RES Directive, the Energy Efficiency Directive, and the Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union.

The so-called higher-ambition coalition, which includes the Netherlands, France, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Portugal, supported the EP’s position in favour of more ambitious targets for RES and energy efficiency. The Visegrad Group (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland), on the other hand, was notably supported by the recently appointed German Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, who suggested that lower goals should be adopted instead of aiming for “unachievable targets”. The German reluctance to support a higher target than 32% for RES left little to the negotiators, while it also became one of the reasons for the failed talks on energy efficiency.

The schedule for the next talks on the Energy Efficiency Directive is to be decided by the Bulgarian Presidency, which could either reschedule another meeting in June or maintain status quo, leaving it up  to the Austrian Presidency in July.