The European Commission's new Framework for Climate and Energy, which proposes binding 2030 targets for the EU as a whole for greenhouse gas emissions (40% reduction relative to 1990) and renewables (27% of total energy by 2030), but abandons binding national renewables targets (currently in place for 2020), has received a predictably mixed reception.

The European Commission’s new Framework for Climate and Energy, which proposes binding 2030 targets for the EU as a whole for greenhouse gas emissions (40% reduction relative to 1990) and renewables (27% of total energy by 2030), but abandons binding national renewables targets (currently in place for 2020), has received a predictably mixed reception.

Renewables NGOs have characterised the proposals as unambitious while other sectors of the energy industry, notably those promoting nuclear power and ‘clean’ fossil generation technologies, including CCS, have welcomed the increased emphasis on flexibility and affordability in meeting decarbonisation goals that has motivated the jettisoning of national binding renewables targets.

"Renewables NGOs have characterised the proposals as unambitious while other sectors of the energy industry… have welcomed the increased emphasis on flexibility and affordability in meeting decarbonisation goals"

UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, said the proposals "provide the flexibility to tackle climate change in the most cost effective way", so that "consumers aren¹t paying over the odds to go green."

He welcomed the fact that the Commission had listened to the argument that "countries must be allowed to decarbonise in the cheapest way possible," but expressed concern about having a renewables target saying the debate in the UK had "moved on to technology-neutral options like a decarbonisation target as the most cost effective and practical way of fighting climate change."

Reservations from the nuclear industry

The World Nuclear Association (WNA) also said it had reservations about having a renewable energy target, which "once again demonstrates an unfortunate policy bias," asserting that the 27% renewables goal "continues to undermine the possibility for cost efficiency in meeting the carbon target" and reflects "an unjustified preference in EU policy for renewable energy over other carbon reduction pathways – such as nuclear energy – regardless of cost, maturity and the preferences of individual member states."

Nevertheless, the WNA welcomed the move to a more "flexible" approach, allowing "nuclear power to play an expanded role in decarbonising electricity supply." Nuclear plant vendor Westinghouse also broadly welcomed the 2030 Framework but had concerns about "potential unintended consequences" of the 27% renewables target and suggested a technology-neutral policy was the most cost-effective way of achieving climate and energy objectives.

Framework deemed ‘unambitious’

"After a heated internal debate on whether to propose a very unambitious or just an unambitious climate and energy framework for 2030, the Commission has chosen the latter", said the president of the European Renewable Energy Council, Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes.

"Just five years ago, the Commission sent the signal to investors that renewable energy was to be the future for Europe. Now, the Commission is acting in reverse-mode, setting a cap for renewables, not a target for 2030. And if you wanted to shift investments further away from Europe, you would go about it no other way. All eyes are now on the Council to shape a dedicated European climate and energy policy for 2030."

"While the binding 2020 target for renewables proved to be a success story, initiating massive costs reduction and technology leadership in Europe, the Commission’s proposal for 2030 sadly is a lame duck," said Frauke Thies, policy director of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association.

Similarly, RenewablesUK said it regretted "the lack of ambition showed in not proposing national binding targets on renewable energy past 2020," while Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven described the policy as "toothless," with "the fingerprints of a UK government in hock to the Big Six energy giants written all over it."