Europe sets its energy goals for 2030

24 October 2014

European Union heads of state have agreed targets for the EU to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, raise efficiency and deploy renewables by 2030.

Coming on top of targets for 2020, a new binding goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels by 2030, while an "indicative" and non-binding target should raise efficiency to 27% against the same baseline. Renewables should be deployed to make up a total of 27% of EU energy by 2030 under another binding target.

The goals were agreed by the European Council of member states leaders yesterday and lauded by its president Herman Van Rompuy as bringing "a positive message to the international climate negotiations" -  the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris next year.

Nuclear power from 131 reactors produces over half of the EU's low-carbon electricity, but the energy source was not mentioned in announcements. Foratom, the nuclear trade body for the EU, said the renewables target "creates a distortion of the market and fails to create a level playing field for all low-carbon technologies." The goals have a measure of technology neutrality in that they are for the European Union as a whole and the contribution of each of the 28 member states will be different according to its financial circumstances and its right to determine its own energy mix.

For example, a country that wants to push hard for renewables will be free to do so, achieving its own goals and advancing the European one on behalf of the bloc. Another country that may wish to decarbonise using nuclear power would have that freedom, and the decarbonisation its achieved would support the group goal. Foratom said nuclear power is "a competitive, reliable and baseload source of energy that will continue to make a major contribution to all three pillars of EU energy policy."

The overarching mechanism to push for reductions in emissions is to remain the European Trading System (ETS) which will reduce the maximum covered emissions from the EU by 2.2% per year from 2021 onwards, an increased rate of decarbonisation compared to the 1.74% per year currently.

The council said the ETS is to be complemented with a mechanism to stabilise the market, although details were not given. In recent years the price to purchase the right to emit a tonne of carbon dioxide has been low, suppressed by reduced demand for energy as well as rules that have granted generous permits to existing fossil-fired plants.

These free allowances are to remain but should be scaled back over time, continuing to 2030 only for countries with incomes below 60% of the EU average. The same group of nations will have 2% of ETS allowances earmarked to encourage badly needed investment. Some 10% of the allowances will be earmarked for countries with GDP below 90% of the average.

To support the renewable target, the announcement noted, "The integration of rising levels of intermittent renewable energy requires a more interconnected internal energy market and appropriate backup, which should be coordinated as necessary at regional level." It is particularly concerned about the integration of the Baltic States, Portugal and Spain, as well as Greece and the islands of Malta and Cyprus.

Achieving a "fully functioning and connected internal energy market" is a priority for which "all efforts must be mobilised... as a matter of urgency."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News