DIRECTIVE ON THE PROMOTION OF THE USE OF ENERGY FROM RENEWABLE SOURCES
Presented by the European Commission on 23 January 2008
In March 2007, the Brussels European Council made a solemn commitment to increase the share of renewables in the EU’s global energy portfolio up to 20% by 2020. European leaders expressed on the same occasion their readiness to boost the use of bio-fuels in transport to 10% by the
These binding targets were considered as a starting point on the path to establish a common energy policy, so much needed in the light of a Europe‟s strong dependency on imported fuels. Charged with
formulating concrete measures to fulfil these ambitious goals, the Commission published in January
2008 a first proposal of the Directive on the promotion of energy from renewable sources.
Currently under the first reading in the Parliament (co-decision procedure), the directive is expected to be adopted in the mid 2009 and to come into effect in the course of 2010.
DO WE REALLY NEED THE NTH DIRECTIVE? – JUSTIFICATION OF THE PROPOSAL
There are several reasons why the adoption of the directive is of so great importance for the EU:
? The EU needs urgently to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in order to comply with the
Kyoto Protocol requirements and confront the risks associated with climate change. There is
however unanimous agreement that it is not happening fast enough. A new directive on
renewables complements therefore the package of measures needed to reduce the
European carbon footprint and boost the development of renewables and bio-fuels.
Commission statistics show that this new legislation would permit to save up to 900 million
tones of CO2 emissions per year, holding back the rate of climate change and sending a
strong signal to other countries to do the same
? The EU should free itself from its dependence on imported oil and set up an appropriate
energy security policy. Renewables sector represents a promising alternative to conventional
sources of energy.
? In order to expand investments in the RES sector (accounted for ?13-18 billion per year), the
business community must be provided with long-term certainty. The Commission
proposes therefore an appropriate legal framework that considerably reduces investment
risk and helps make rational financial decisions.
? The directive has been developed as a response to the ambitious Lisbon Strategy,
designed to build a knowledge-based industry. It is believed that the development of a
RES sector will help create new jobs, boost economic growth, enhance European
competitiveness, and contribute to the regional development, mainly in rural areas.
WHAT PROPOSAL DOES THE DIRECTIVE CONTAIN? SUMMARY OF THE PROVISIONS:
The directive pursues a triple objective. It aims to:
? Set up a series of mandatory targets for the overall share of the RES in energy production
and transport sectors. It claims however that the effort to achieve the pre-established goals
should be fairly divided among all EU Member States.
? Lay down rules relating to administrative procedures, electricity grid connections and
guarantees of origin. The main objective of these proposals is to remove all unnecessary
barriers slowing down the development of a competitive renewable energy sector in Europe.
? Establish environment criteria for bio-fuels and other bio-liquids to privilege the use of
the most sustainable renewable energy source.
FOCUS ON THE DIRECTIVE’S MAIN LEGAL PROVISIONS
? Differentiated targets for EU member states
The directive makes it mandatory for each member state to increase the share of renewable
energies across three sectors, namely the electricity production, heating/ cooling and transport.
The EU‟s overall 20% goal is divided into smaller individual targets; taking into account
different national potentials, namely country‟s GDP per capita and global energy consumption.
The Commission strongly encourages each member states to set up a series of intermediates
targets, helping monitor their progress towards the ultimate 20% objective. A separate target
to increase bio-fuels use to 10% of transport fuel consumption is to be achieved by every
country as part of the overall EU objective.
? National Action Plans (NAPs) on renewables
Each Member State has to set up a special national action plan specifying its share of RES in
the overall target. These plans should be presented to the European Commission before 31
? Voluntary Trading Mechanism 1It will be possible for Member States to transfer their Guarantees of Origins to other countries,
provided they have reached or exceeded their own targets. The main objective of this
mechanism is to enhance market stability and help lagging Member States achieve their RES
targets. This system is designed to complement existing support schemes such as feed-in
tariffs. The directive recognises the latter as “generally the most efficient support schemes for
promoting renewable energy sources”.
? Connecting new producers of electricity from RES to the electricity grid
The electricity transmission operators are under obligation to provide RES producers an equal
access to the electricity grid. The directive urges that rules concerning the costs of such
connection should be transparent and non-discriminatory.
? Strengthening RES use in the architecture and building sector
The Member States should ensure that architectures and building planners take
into account the use of energy from RES in their designs. The directive suggests introducing
the obligation to use a certain level of renewables in all new or refurbished buildings.
? Sustainability criteria for bio-fuels to avoid ecosystem loss, such as deforestation,
population displacement, food price increase and higher CO2 output
In order to avoid the destruction of bio-diverse lands, bio-fuels used by the Member States will
need to comply with a number of the following standards to be put forward by the Commission
- Land use: old forest and bio-diverse grasslands with a high carbon stock (wetlands or
„pristine peat-lands‟) cannot be used for the cultivation of bio-fuels
- CO2 impact: the overall greenhouse gas (GHG) savings from bio-fuels production must be at
least 35% in order for cultivation to be considered sustainable
? Removal of administrative burdens
The directive foresees the introduction of several useful provisions designed to reduce
administrative barriers and improve the transparency of procedures. It is for example planned
to introduce a “one-stop shop” whereby one body is responsible for applications and grants for
building in each Member state.
1 GoOs are issued by a recognised body from one of 27 EU Member States are the primary evidence for the
identification of supply as coming from a renewable source.
MIXED REACTIONS FOLLOWING THE PUBLICATION OF THE DIRECTIVE:
? Environment associations and NGOs:
European environmental organisations see in the proposed directive a crucial tool to exploit the long-
term potential of the RES sector. Nevertheless, while the provisions designed to promote clean energy
technologies are largely welcomed, Brussels faces widespread criticism over the bio-fuel targets.
According to the European Environmental Bureau the directive is the first step towards a more
sustainable demand and use of energy. It is, however, far less ambitious comparing to a 30% reduction target agreed at the UN Climate change meeting in Bali. The EEB deplores moreover that the Commission preferred to introduce complicated and doubtful sustainable criteria for bio-fuels instead of completely abounding this target with respect to the general opinion about bio-fuels‟
harmfulness expressed by the scientific community.
This position is shared by the Greenpeace, which even names the Commission proposal as “a
fundamental drawback”. According to the association the regulations on bio-fuels are last-minute
made, particularly weak and do not provide any guarantee of sustainability.
? Renewable energy and bio-fuels industries
The RES industry gives a positive opinion about the directive as a major tool for the further development of the sector, which significantly contributes to reducing greenhouse emissions
and creates new jobs opportunities. The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) applauds
the provisions for the reduction of administrative burdens and cross-border trading mechanisms,
providing investors with certainty about their long-term financial plans. Nevertheless, the Council urges to develop other legal instruments such as feed-in tariffs, considered as less expensive and
more effective than trading of green certificates
The European Bio-fuels Technological Platform is sceptical over the sustainable criteria for bio-fuels.
Given that bio-fuels currently accounts for only 2%share in the EU final transport fuel consumption and
that the other 98% comes from non-certified traditional energy sources, sustainability standards risk to be a burden for the European bio-fuel market as long as there is no such criteria set for fossil
The European Photovoltaic and European Wind Industry Associations insist on further clarification of the provisions relating to a fair access to the electricity grid. Since the implementation of the directive is left to the national governments, this could result in varying situations among the
27 Member States. This situation would obviously not be in line with the logic of a single electricity
market. Both associations call upon the European Commission to precise these provisions in order to
leave little margin of discretion to the Member States.
As far as the GO trading is concerned, both industries suggests imposing a series of penalties on Member States not respecting their target obligations. Such a mechanism should be moreover accompanied by other legal measures, such as planning procedures, feed-in tariffs or state subsidies.
In the absence of a truly competitive internal energy market, GO trading favours large incumbent
energy firms that can afford the higher investment costs necessary to participate in the schemes.
? European Parliament
On 12 September 2008, the proposal of the directive was voted by the EP Committee on Industry,
2Research and Energy. Supported by a vast majority (50:2), the Turmes report proposes the following amendments:
- Revision of the bio-fuel target: even though the 10% target has been maintained, the report
urges Member States to achieve in parallel a 20% energy efficiency improvement in the transport.
A proportion of this target must also be met from advanced technology, such as hydrogen, waste
2 Claude Turmes is a Green MEP from Luxembourg and a rapporteur of the directive on renewable energies.
and biomass energy, and non-food competing bio-fuels. By 2014 a review of the 10% bio-fuels
target will take place in order to check up whether the 10% target to be met from new technologies
- A special flexibility mechanism to be set up. It would aim to put in place joint renewable projects.
The percentage of renewable energy increase achieved in each project would be shared between
the participating member states according to their level of participation.
- Interim targets for Member States need to be established, backed by financial penalties of up
to 110 euro per megawatt for laggards. In contrast, member states that overachieve their targets
should receive a financial award to the tune of 30 to 40 euro per mw.
? Scientific community
Some research papers point out that renewables are an unreliable replacement for electricity
generated from fossil or nuclear fuels since energy sources like the wind and the sun can be neither
control nor stored. Grid safety concerns are also raised: if wind energy output suddenly increases over
a short period of time, grids can become overloaded and shut down, leading to blackouts. On the
other hand, renewables may not be able to respond quickly enough to sudden increases in demand,
causing losses or significant decreases in power flows.
A QUICK GLANCE AT THE PROS AND CONS OF THE COMMISSION PROPOSAL
Legal provisions + - 1. 20% share of - a new boost for the development of the RES - no penalties imposed on the EU
renewables in the sector, which allows to create new jobs and Member States if their national targets electricity contribute in a significant way to reducing are not achieved production by 2020 greenhouse emissions Uncertainty of the RES sector
- the overall 20% target translated into - interim targets not compulsory
individual goals, with regard to a fair and equal
allocation among all Member States
2. 10% of the bio-- the development opportunity for the bio-fuels - several problems linked to the use of
fuels in transport by sector – new jobs created bio-fuels in transport, such as
2020 ecosystem loss, such as deforestation,
population displacement, food price
increase and higher CO2 output
- sustainable criteria imposed only on
bio-fuels producers infringe
3. Access to the - more fair competitiveness rules among - a risk of distortions in the directive
electricity grid producers of electricity from RES on one hand implementation
and from conventional energy sources on the access conditions may vary among the
other 27 Member States
- unpredicted distortions in electricity
Renewable energies are hardly
controlled. If too much electricity is
produced from RES, the network can
become overloaded and shut down,
leading to blackouts.
4. GO Trading - increased confidence of the business - if not accompanied by other legal
community in the development of the RES measures, the trading mechanism
sector favours large incumbent energy firms
that can afford the higher up-front
- an effective way to help lagging MS achieve investment costs necessary to
their energy targets participate in the schemes
5. Administrative - more incentives to develop the RES sector burdens reduced