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Statement by Commissioner Simson on delivering the European Green Deal

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 14 juli 2021.

Remarks following the College meeting:

Thank you Ursula, thank you Frans,

Reaching the Green Deal goals will not be possible without reshaping our energy system - this is where most of our emissions are generated and where change needs to happen first, to make it possible elsewhere.

By 2050, most of our energy has to come from renewable sources. Planning and building energy infrastructure takes time, so to get to net zero by mid century, we need an unprecedented transformation during this decade already. The steady renewables evolution in the recent years and decades must become a revolution. With our proposal to revise the renewable energy directive, we are making that possible.

Renewable electricity has by now become the cheapest option in many places. And often, it's European companies and European technology providing that green power. By pushing our 2030 renewables target to 40%, we are not only promoting cleaner and cheaper energy production, we are also boosting an economic sector with remarkable potential to create jobs, growth and trade.

While renewable energy is the dashing protagonist of the Green Deal, energy efficiency is the unsung hero without whom nothing would get done. Everything we are presenting today will become impossible or at least very difficult, if we do not reduce the amount of energy we consume.

Being more efficient will immediately cut our emissions, ease the pressure on the environment and reduce the need for energy and other resources to support our way of life.

But energy efficiency not only enables a green transition, it also makes a just transition possible. Increasing our efficiency allows us to slash energy bills and tackle energy poverty. This is why we are proposing to upgrade our energy efficiency directive.

Change on this scale is never easy. Today's proposals will require serious efforts from all Member States, from our businesses and societies. But being greener, smarter and faster also brings huge opportunities that we should be quick to grasp.

Thank you.

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Remarks during the press conference on the energy proposals:

Thank you very much, Frans.

The world's energy system is changing fast.

Over the past seven years, more renewable power has been added to the global grid annually than fossil fuels and nuclear combined. Last year, despite the pandemic, investments in renewables reached an all-time high. Deep renovation to save energy has become a global green recovery priority.

As recently shown by IEA and IRENA, there is no path to net zero that does not prioritise renewable energy and energy efficiency - and doesn't demand swift action on both. It is not surprising that these two policies are central to the European Green Deal.

That's why we are today updating the renewable energy and energy efficiency directives, making them fit for our 2030 ambition.

Let me start with a topic where the EU has been a true pioneer: renewable energy. We set our first collective binding target in 2009 for 2020 (20%) and have achieved it. We are now on track to reach more than a 33% share of renewables by 2030, beyond our current 32% target.

This is impressive, but not enough. We are therefore proposing to raise the bar even higher and go for an ambitious 40% target for the share of renewables in our energy mix. We are complementing this with country-specific indicative targets.

This decision has an environmental logic, but also an economic one. Our early start in this sector has already paid off. Renewables prices have fallen dramatically. The European renewables industry, especially in offshore wind, is a global leader.

So far, our power sector has been the most successful in integrating renewables. We must now repeat that success in other areas, where progress has been slower, especially in transport, buildings, heating and cooling and industry. We are therefore proposing to introduce new or upgraded sub-targets in all of these areas.

Where electricity is not an option, renewable gases of non-biological origin - like hydrogen - must provide an alternative to fossil fuels. So, today we are proposing a definition for renewable hydrogen, which makes it possible to have a viable certification system.

We will also set specific mandatory targets for the use of renewable hydrogen in the industry and transport sectors, to give the right signals to investors - and renewable hydrogen a boost.

To reach our 2030 and 2050 goals in time, we need all kinds of renewable energy, including bioenergy. The latter represents 60% of our renewables at the moment and will remain important in the future.

It is obvious that bioenergy can be part of the Green Deal only if it's produced sustainably. We already have criteria in place for that in the current Renewable Energy Directive, which came into force on 1 July. But we also know that the pressure on our ecosystems is intense and that's especially true for our forests.

We therefore propose to make the sustainability criteria for the woody biomass stricter and introduce no-go areas where sourcing wood for energy is forbidden or limited. The sustainability criteria would in the future apply to all heat and power installations larger than 5 megawatts.

It is common sense that we should use wood first where it adds most value, like in furniture or construction, and high quality wood should not be burned for energy. Fortunately, this doesn't happen often in Europe, where energy is mostly produced from residues and forest industry by-products that would otherwise go to waste.

But to ensure that public subsidies don't send the wrong signals, we are setting new, more stringent rules on state aid for bioenergy. We want to stop national incentives for using high quality wood like logs for energy. The same goes for stumps and roots, which are important for biodiversity. No subsidies should be granted for electricity production plants after 2026.

Finally, scaling up renewables massively is also about removing practical and legal barriers standing in the way. We propose to facilitate power purchase agreements, promote cross border cooperation and ease some legal and administrative constraints on permitting and authorization.

Next year, we will provide Member States with guidance on the best practices to follow for reconciling renewables deployment and respect for environment and local communities.

Today, we are also proposing to make Europe much more energy efficient. By 2030, we should use 9% less energy than current projections estimate. This target is binding at EU level.

All Member States will contribute to the EU target based on their specific circumstances. There will also be an obligation for each country to take action that leads to final energy savings by 1.5% a year: this is almost double the current rate.

As a significant part of our energy consumption happens in the public sector. We have therefore introduced an obligation for the public sector to lead by example - by cutting energy consumption 1.7% annually. In addition, 3% of the floor area of buildings must be renovated every year. Today, this applies to central government, but we are extending it to all public bodies. We estimate that this will add 1.4 billion square meters to the renovation obligation!

This proposal also enshrines the Energy Efficiency First Principle in the EU law. After the summer, the Commission will issue detailed guidelines to EU governments and other actors on how to take energy efficiency potential into account in policy and planning decisions.

This proposal is also part of our strategy to address the distributional impact of the transition. There are 34 million Europeans in energy poverty. We are asking Member States to ensure that their policies have no adverse effects on vulnerable customers and low income households. We also propose an obligation to achieve a share of the energy savings among vulnerable customers, people affected by energy poverty, and those living in social housing.

The proposal mandates action on the Member States and energy suppliers' side, going hand-in-hand with measures under the Social Climate Fund.

These two proposals are as bold as they are necessary. We are asking for more ambition, more action and more investment.

But while the effort needed for our Green Deal agenda is unprecedented, the opportunities are also great. I firmly believe that the cost for those who stick with outdated ideas, old technologies and stranded assets will be much higher.

Thank you.

For more information

Opening remarks by Commissioner Simson (Press conference: Delivering the European Green Deal)

Opening remarks by Commissioner Simson (Press conference: Energy and climate)


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