EU must harness energy efficiency or miss climate targets

27 July 2017

According to a new study, in order to maintain the current level of ambition for RES deployment, renewables targets will need to be increased compared to the EC proposal of at least 27%. At the same time, driving up energy efficiency is one way to facilitate increased RES shares as it reduces the additional RES capacities needed.

The signing and coming into force of the Paris Agreement enshrined global efforts to keep average global warming well below 2C. The climate accord placed considerable onus on countries to meet various reduction targets for their greenhouse gas emission, based on, among others, their historic output and their capabilities.

The European Union has for a long time made moves to limit the pollution of member states. The currently 28 state strong community has been active in terms of various initiatives for decades, including the 1998 Kyoto Protocol, the launch of an emissions trading scheme in 2005 and key signatories of the Paris Agreement. Prior to Paris, the block had already laid plans to collectively cut emissions in the EU by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, while increasing the share of renewables used to at least 27% of the EU energy consumption by 2030, and increase energy efficiency by at least 27% by 2030.

In spite of this, a new report from Ecofys, suggests the EU’s efforts are still not enough. The study also recommends possible targets for various energy efficiency and renewable usage that would allow the block as a whole to reach the levels required to maintain the current level of ambition for the period 2020-2030. The benchmark considers a range of metrics, from the size of member states’ economies to their capacity to generate renewable energy.

Meeting the Paris Agreement for the EU

According to the publication, the required RES deployment for different levels of energy efficiency levels required by 2030 vary considerably, although even the 2030 target for 27% RED deployment is well within reach on the back of very high levels of investment in energy efficiency improvement. To meet with current targets then, the EU will likely need to significantly increase its renewable deployment, with the level of significance highly dependent on the level of energy efficiency achieved, at between 464 Mtoe at 30% and 398 Mtoe at 40%.

As it stands 30% RES is achievable without improving energy efficiency to the level (40%) required to meet the Paris Agreement. To meet the Paris Agreement RES target (45%) efforts would need to be doubled in the case of a 40% energy efficiency target, or tripled for a 30% energy efficiency target.

Member state benchmark

The research also considered the benchmark required by member states in line with their respective GDP scores, “according to the method adopted to derive Member States’ 2020-targets, i.e. a flat rate increase of 2020 RES shares modulated by GDP per capita”. This is then further modulated based on the level of energy efficiency achieved by the respective member state.

The research notes that most member states are on their way towards reaching at least their 2020 commitments, with some, such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Romania and Sweden, already surpass their respective goals.

Energy efficiency 40%

In terms of the effort required to hit 45% RES by 2030, if energy efficiency of 40% is achieved to that period, most member states will require a slight increase in their level of ambition, compared to their 2010-2020 logic, in order to meet 45%RES and 40%EE (based on the 2020 benchmark). The UK, for instance, will need to boost levels by around a third above current levels, while the Netherlands needs a boost of around 40%. Italy will need to considerably boost its efforts meanwhile, although France would almost achieve the target with its current level.

Particularly small states, such as Luxemburg, Slovakia, Slovenia and Bulgaria will need to considerably boost their respective effort in this case. Austria, Sweden and Belgium too have their work cut out for them to achieve the higher targets, even with high levels of energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency 30% scenario

Combined with the 45% RES, for a scenario in which energy efficiency of 30% is achieved, considerably more effort will be needed for all states involved. The UK would need to double its efforts, with similar effort required from the Netherlands and France. Spain would have its work cut out for it, as would Sweden and Hungary. Latvia is the only country on track in the 30% energy efficiency scenario.

Remarking on the report, the authors said, “An increase in the EU energy efficiency target from 30% to 40% would help to achieve any EU target for renewable energy (RES) more easily as the aggregated RES deployment needed for any RES target would be reduced by nearly 15%. Assuming a 40% energy efficiency target, a RES-target of at least 35% would be needed to maintain current net deployment increase of renewables in the EU-28.”


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