Europe’s New Renewable Energy Target Draws Mixed Reactions

European Union officials drew mixed responses from special-interest groups this week after agreeing to a binding renewable energy target of 32 percent by 2030. The target represents a step back for the European Parliament, which had originally proposed 35 percent.

But it is still a big improvement over the European Council’s counteroffer of 27 percent. The deal includes a clause to allow for an increase in the target by 2023.

EU Climate Action & Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete tweeted that Europe is “upping the game” as negotiators emerged from talks that lasted through the night.

And the European PV industry body SolarPower Europe claimed that “solar wins big” with the deal. This is largely thanks to a provision, thought to be the most wide-ranging of its kind, that gives EU citizens the right to produce, consume, store and sell their own electricity.

“The deal is a good one for solar,” James Watson, SolarPower Europe’s CEO, said in a press release. “We see a much more ambitious target than was expected just a few months ago and, importantly, we have a strong framework for self-consumption and prosumers.”

The right to self-generate, consume and store energy “is a major achievement,” he said.

Giving citizens the right to self-consume energy was expected to be a tricky issue. Worldwide, policies governing solar self-consumption range from accommodating, as in Nevada, to heavily restrictive, as is the case in Spain.

But it appears the way forward for the EU self-consumption provision, along with the higher-than-expected final target, was smoothed by a shock change in Spanish government this month.

Paradoxically, the party that was ousted, and had been expected to dampen hopes for a higher renewables target and self-consumption, was the right-wing People’s Party administration in which Cañete was previously Minister for Agriculture, Food and Environment.

“The change in Spanish government, in particular, swung the dynamic,” said Molly Walsh, renewable energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. “We could see that on Monday, at the Energy Council, many member states were speaking in favor of much higher targets."

“This unlocked the negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council, as represented by the Bulgarian presidency, and allowed the deal to be done," she continued.

Elsewhere, Germany’s clean energy leadership credentials were dented by efforts to thwart agreement on a higher target.

The German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, rejected anything above a 27 percent renewable target as unachievable, Reuters reports.

Among other measures approved this week, "we are also delighted to see that administrative procedures will be streamlined so that permitting for new installations can take no more than one year," said Watson. "This will hugely reduce the soft costs of solar.”

Finally, Watson noted, the new deal also provides the freedom for countries to carry out solar-specific tenders. “Overall, there is much to celebrate,” he said. “We congratulate the European policymakers on a historic deal.”

Friends of the Earth Europe, however, called the deal “inadequate.”

“On one hand, 32 percent is a lot better than 27 percent, and several years ago it seemed unlikely that we would get anything above 30," said Walsh. "On the other hand, 32 percent is barely above business as usual.”

Europe needs to be carbon-free by 2050, she said. Planning to only have a third of energy coming from renewables by 2030 “is planning to fail,” she told GTM.

And enthusiasm for the EU target was blunted by the leaking of a draft United Nations report showing that within 22 years, global warming is on course to exceed the most stringent goal set by the Paris Agreement.

According to Reuters, the document, due for publication this October, says: “If emissions continue at their present rate, human-induced warming will exceed 1.5° C by around 2040.”

Advocacy groups are now hoping that the momentum seen so far in the EU negotiations can be harnessed to achieve an ambitious target for energy efficiency, which has yet to be agreed on.

Friends of the Earth is hoping a proposed 33 percent efficiency target can be achieved and made binding — with energy poverty provisions thrown in for good measure.

Samsung promises to use 100 percent renewable energy in US, Europe, and China by 2020

Samsung said today that it’s going to make its factories and offices in the US, Europe, and China run on 100 percent renewable energy. The announcement comes after a more than year-long Greenpeace campaign advocating for greener practices and protesting the company’s role in worsening climate change.

Activists have pointed out that Samsung lags behind rivals when it comes to going green. Apple and Google have both purchased enough renewable energy, such as wind or solar energy, to offset their global energy consumption since April. (It’s likely that Samsung will also purchase renewable energy to offset its consumption, rather than be directly powered by renewables.)

Samsung is only explicitly promising 100 percent renewable energy for 17 of its 38 buildings around the world. It makes no mention of the regional offices in Israel, India, Singapore, and Japan. Samsung says that the buildings in the US, Europe, and China in particular are “well-equipped with infrastructure for the development and transmission of renewable energy.”

The American, European, and Chinese factories and offices will be upgraded by 2020. In the interim two years, Samsung says it will try to increase renewable energy use internationally, although it doesn’t say what regions it will focus on specifically. A sustainability report being released tomorrow should have more details.

Samsung has also joined the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) program for next year, which will identify climate change risks within its supply chain. It said that it’s also going to try to get its partners across the supply chain to set their own renewable energy targets.

In South Korea, Samsung is working alongside the government’s 2030 plan to raise the national renewable energy use by 20 percent. The company says it will install more solar panels at its headquarters and add solar arrays and geothermal power generators at its other locations.

Greenpeace responded to the news today with a blog post, “This is a really important first step for Samsung to reduce its massive global manufacturing footprint ... This could help drive a faster transition away from fossil fuels [in] coal countries like China and South Korea.”