Documents considered by the Committee on 21 July 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


13 Renewable energy progress report

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; draw to the attention of Energy and Climate Change Committee
Document detailsCommission progress report on renewable energy
Legal base
DepartmentEnergy and Climate Change
Document numbers(36935), 9964/15 + ADDs 1-2, COM(15) 293

Summary and Committee's conclusions

13.1 In order to support the development and integration of renewable energy, Directive 2009/28/EC sets a legally binding target whereby the EU as a whole must ensure that 20% of its final energy consumption by 2020 comes from renewable sources, with a sub-target of 10% for renewable energy use in transport. In parallel with this, each Member State has its own overall target — which, for the UK, is 15% — whilst all Member States have the same (10%) sub-target for transport. Progress is measured by interim (two-yearly) targets, which become steeper in the approach to 2020, and the Directive requires the Commission to produce a mid-term report on the EU's progress.

13.2 This document sets out the position on the basis of reports submitted by Member States to the Commission in 2013, and says that, overall, renewables are projected in 2014 to account for 15.3% of gross final energy consumption, with the EU and an overwhelming majority of Member States advancing well towards their 2020 target, although it cautions that, as the trajectory becomes steeper, some Member States (including the UK) may need to intensify their efforts, or reassess their policy tools, in order to keep on track. The Commission also comments in more detail on the three areas identified in the Directive — electricity, heating and cooling, and transport — noting that progress has been slowest on the last of these.

13.3 Given the important role which EU energy policies give to renewables, this is clearly a document of some interest, which we think it right to draw to the attention of the House. In doing so, we note that, notwithstanding certain qualifications (notably as regards transport), the Commission takes a reasonably optimistic view of the EU as a whole meeting its overall targets, and that it believes that a majority of Member States are on course to do so as well.

13.4 At the same time, the Commission has identified the UK as one of the Member States which may need to assess whether existing policy tools are sufficient to enable them to meet their renewable energy objectives. As we have commented, the Minister of State at the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Andrea Leadsom), has made no reference to this in her Explanatory Memorandum, and indeed has provided figures which suggest that, at least so far as 2013-14 is concerned, the UK is likely to exceed its interim target. Whilst this assessment is not necessarily incompatible with the observations made by the Commission, there is clearly scope for confusion, and it would be helpful therefore if the Minister could indicate whether she believes the UK is likely to meet its 2020 targets (and in particular whether she agrees with the Commission's observations).

13.5 In the meantime, we hold the document under scrutiny, and draw it to the attention of the Energy and Climate Change Committee.

Full details of the documents: Commission Report: Renewable energy progress report: (36935), 9964/15 + ADDs 1-2, COM(15) 293.

Background

13.6 According to the Commission, renewable energy is an essential element in the fundamental transformation needed to achieve the Energy Union, and it notes that a comprehensive policy framework to support the development and integration of renewables, based on quantified targets, regulatory clarity and market based investment, is contained in Directive 2009/28/EC. In particular, this sets a legally binding target whereby the EU as a whole must ensure that 20% of its final energy consumption by 2020 must come from renewable sources, with a sub-target of 10% for renewable energy use in transport. In parallel with this, each Member State has its own overall target — which, for the UK, is 15% — whilst all Member States have the same (10%) sub-target for transport. The Directive also distinguishes between consumption of electricity (which accounts for 24% of overall EU energy use), that for heating and cooling (which accounts for 46%), and that for transport (which accounts for the remaining 30%).

13.7 Member States can meet their targets either through domestic policies providing incentives to renewable energy generation; by physical trading (such as partnerships with another Member States on projects generating renewable energy); and by statistical trading (whereby a Member State can purchase "credits" from another Member State which has surpassed its target). Progress is measured by interim (two-yearly) targets, which become steeper in the approach to 2020, and, along with other Member States, the UK outlined its plans to meet its target in a National Renewable Energy Action Plan, which was submitted to the Commission in 2010.

The current document

13.8 The Directive requires the Commission to produce a mid-term report on the EU's progress towards meeting its 2020 goal, and this document sets out the position on the basis of reports submitted by Member States to the Commission in 2013.

13.9 The Commission says that, overall, renewables are projected in 2014 to account for 15.3% of gross final energy consumption, and that the EU and an overwhelming majority of Member States are advancing well towards their 2020 target (although it suggests that in part this is due to decreases in overall energy consumption in recent years). It also cautions that, as the trajectory becomes steeper, some Member States may need to intensify their efforts to keep on track (and, where necessary, make use of cooperation mechanisms with others): and it suggests that some Member States — including France, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and the UK — may need to assess whether policy tools are sufficient and effective in meeting their renewable energy objectives. However, it stresses that this assessment is based on modelling and only take account of policy measures implemented by the end of 2013, with some Member States having in the meantime taken decisions which, if implemented in a timely manner, would deliver the necessary outcome by 2020.

13.10 As regards the three individual areas, it comments that the share of renewable energy in the heating and cooling sector was estimated to be 16.6% in 2014, and that it is increasingly being used as a cost-efficient alternative to fossil fuels in district heating and at local level; and that about 26% of the EU's power is generated from renewables (including about 10% sourced from variable renewable energy, such as wind and solar). However, it says that in the transport sector — where the bulk of renewable energy is still expected to come from biofuels — progress towards the 10% target has been slow, with a projection for 2014 of only 5.7%, this being due to slow progress in road vehicle and rail electrification, to the uncertainty caused by a delay in finalising the means of limiting the risks of indirect land-use change[ 152] increasing emissions levels, and to insufficient progress in the deployment of alternative, second generation biofuels.

13.11 The Commission comments that, despite the steady progress made until now, achieving the 2020 targets is still largely dependent on continuity of current policies, and additional measures enabling the deployment of renewable energy: and it suggests that, for some Member States, this will require cooperation with others, whilst Member States will also need to address non-cost barriers, including planning, administrative and authorisation procedures, and to facilitate market access for new entrants, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises. It notes that there has been some progress in these areas, including the introduction of a one-stop-shop system for project approvals, on-line information platforms, and improved cooperation between involved authorities. It also notes that the UK has introduced a 12 month time limit for planning permits (including time for appeals).

13.12 Finally, the Commission notes that, as part of its Regulatory Fitness (REFIT) programme, a review of the Renewable Energy Directive was carried out in 2014, which concluded that the setting of binding national targets had been successful, not least in increasing transparency for investors, improving the quality of information about renewable energy markets, and achieving the EU's energy and climate policy goals, security of supply, employment, public acceptance and regional development. In addition, it says that the targets have avoided emissions of around 388 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2013, and have reduced EU demand for fossil fuels, reduced inland consumption of natural gas by at least 7% in almost half of Member States, and avoided at least €30 billion (£25.5 billion) a year on imported fuel costs.

The Government's view

13.13 In her Explanatory Memorandum of 2 July 2015, the Minister says that although there are no policy issues arising directly from this report, her department continues to monitor progress against the 2020 renewables target, and will report on progress against the interim targets. In the meantime, she comments that, overall, the UK met its first interim target of 4.1% for 2011-12, and, with provisional figures showing that 6.3% of energy consumption came from renewables in 2013-14, is on track to meet the target of 5.4% for that year; that it is among the 21 Member States which have met the deployment trajectory for renewable heating and cooling, and that it is also among the 16 Member States which were above their indicative trajectory for renewable electricity use in 2013. She does not comment on Commission's observation that the UK is one of the Member States which may need to assess whether policy tools are sufficient and effective in meeting its overall renewable energy objectives.

Previous Committee Reports

None.



152   This arises when, as a result of more agricultural land being used to grow fuel crop rather than food, woodland is used instead to grow food crops, thus releasing stored carbon. Back


 
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