EU council agrees 2030 targets, endorse 'urgent' electricity interconnections

Source: Heren

2014/10/24

EU countries agreed on new 2030 targets at both a national and EU level, agreeing targets for emissions reductions, renewable energy, energy efficiency and endorsing interconnection measures for 2020 as “urgent”.

Member states will cut their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40%, increase the share of renewable energy consumed to 27%, and cut energy consumption by 27% from projected levels by 2030, they agreed on Thursday night.

The targets were announced after the EU Council meeting on the 2030 policy and climate framework, as countries struck a deal after months of negotiations.

States will have to cut domestic emissions to meet their targets, rather than being able to cooperate with other countries. Each member state will contribute according to the principles of “fairness and solidarity”, according to the conclusions of the meeting.

The renewable consumption target will be binding at the EU level. The energy efficiency target will only be indicative and will be reviewed by 2020 “having in mind an EU level of 30%”.

The Commission originally proposed 30% energy efficiency targets with a view to increasing security of supply in the context of the dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas supply ( see EDEM 23 July 2014 ).

Interconnections endorsed

But while 2030 emissions policies are binding at a national level, policy makers at the European Council meeting also agreed to mobilise all efforts to achieve a fully functioning and connected internal energy market, endorsing the previous targets from the Commission.

Countries will “take urgent measures” to meet an interconnection target of at least 10% of their installed production capacity by 2020, the council conclusion said. For 2030, the objective is to achieve 15%, compared with 8% at the moment according to the Commission ( see EDEM 15 October 2014 ).

While a clear political target can facilitate action on the ground, constructing the interconnectors is often delayed by public opposition ( see EDEM 21 October). As the council only sets out the general political direction and priorities of the European Union, but does not hold legislative power, it remains up to the countries to follow up on the promise.

Particular importance was given to building electricity interconnectors in the Baltic States, Portugal and Spain, the council said in its conclusion. The European Network of Transmission System Operators for electricity (ENTSO-E) has identified these regions ‘electricity islands’ because they lack interconnection capacity according to the latest ten-year network development plan ( see EDEM 10 July 2014 ).

“Member States and the Commission will facilitate the implementation of projects of common interest including those identified in the European Energy Security Strategy which link in particular the Baltic States, Spain and Portugal, to the rest of the internal energy market, ensure that they have the highest priority and will be completed by 2020,” the council said. European TSO’s identified 248 grid projects of common interest meaning that they would yield benefits for at least two EU member countries, security of supply, market integration, compeition and reducing CO2 emissions.

However, there has been criticism that such a blanket 15% interconnection target does not reflect the national differences and therefore could lead to inefficient investments.

The project of achieving an internal energy market, originally supposed to be in place by the end of 2014, turned out to be much more complicated than policy makers envisaged when they stated the goal in 2011.

Installing the infrastructure for the internal energy market, the electricity and natural gas interconnectors, is only one aspect of achieving that goal, but this has become increasingly important.

The rapid increase in renewable power generation means that one national market can suddenly experience oversupply as well as undersupply making the need to flow power from neighbouring markets even greater. Martin Degen and Silvia Molteni