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Breakthrough in the ambitious EU expansion of renewable energy
EU Council adopts new Directive for the use of renewable energies in the Member States
On 16 June, the Member States of the European Union approved a comprehensive revision of the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED) in the Permanent Representatives Committee. The European target for renewable energies in 2030 is raised significantly from 32% to 45%. This means a doubling of the share of renewable energies compared to the current level of just under 22% in 2021.
This gives a great boost to the expansion of renewables: the planned expansion of renewable energies by 2030 will thus be roughly doubled. To achieve these new targets, the EU will have to install more than 100 GW of new wind turbines and solar plants every year. For Germany, this means that the greatly increased expansion targets for wind and solar energy introduced in 2022 will be underpinned by European targets and will therefore become binding. The higher EU targets also provide the framework for more far-reaching measures and goals in the EU, for example the EU Solar Strategy, which envisages roughly tripling PV capacity to 600 GW by 2030.
Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck said: "I am very pleased that the Council has today backed the agreement of 30 March. The revised directive will massively accelerate the expansion of renewable energies throughout the European Union. We are raising the renewables target for 2030 from 32% to 45%. Wind and solar energy in particular will be expanded twice as fast as previously envisaged. The new European rules will trigger a boom of investments in renewables and make the roll-out legally binding. This means for us that last year’s massive increase in expansion targets for wind and solar energy will now be underpinned by European requirements. It will make us less dependent on energy imports. For me, it is very important that we not only focus on targets, but also think about the necessary measures. This is why I have worked to ensure that many of the accelerated approval procedures for renewable energy projects, which we agreed on in the 2022 energy crisis, are now made permanent. Approvals can now be obtained more quickly, planning is accelerated. So I am pleased that the European Union has the power to enable such a success for renewable energies."
The agreement also enables a breakthrough for renewable energies in sectors other than electricity in the future. In the heating sector, in transport and in industry, binding targets for the use of renewable energy now apply in every country. The switch to renewable energies in all sectors will become mandatory at European level. In Germany alone, for example, industry must use hydrogen from renewable energies on a large scale - around 20-25 TWh - in 2030. To ensure that these targets are translated into action, infringement proceedings may be launched should a country fail to meet its sectoral targets.
In addition, authorisation procedures will be accelerated significantly and permanently. Among other things, concrete deadlines will be set: under the new rules, the approval procedure for new renewable projects in certain areas must not take longer than 12 months. It is also important that hydrogen from nuclear power is not counted towards EU targets - the RED only counts renewable energies towards the targets.
Apart from that, agreement was reached on 16 June regarding the market ramp-up of e-fuels, in particular in aviation ("ReFuelEU Aviation"). The EU is introducing a quota for the market ramp-up of e-fuels ("RFNBOs") in the aviation sector, from 1.2% e-fuels in 2030 to 35% e-fuels in 2050. Overall, 70% of aviation fuels must then be renewable in 2050. In aviation, e-fuels are particularly important, as direct electrification is only possible to a limited extent.
Background to the agreement on the Renewable Energy Directive:
Raising the overall target The agreement that has now been reached on an amendment to the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED III) provides for the EU's 2030 target for renewable energies to rise to a total of 45% of total energy consumption (gross energy consumption). 42.5% is to be provided as a compulsory contribution by the Member States. The existing Governance Regulation ensures that this target will actually be achieved. For example, concrete measures will be taken if there are indications that the expansion of renewables is not yet sufficient. In addition, there is an indicative additional target of 2.5%. This top-up is to be achieved through further voluntary contributions by the Member States or through pan-European measures. The EU is thus doubling its ambition for the expansion of renewable energies. According to initial projections, Germany's targets are sufficient to achieve the new EU goals. Now we must do everything we can to achieve our national expansion targets.
Nationally binding sector targets for 2030 ensure that renewable energies are not only used in the electricity sector. The agreement introduces further binding national sectoral targets for the use of renewable energies. Should a Member State fail to comply with these binding sectoral targets, it would face infringement proceedings. The share of renewable energies must grow by 0.8 percentage points each year between 2021-2025 and by 1.1 percentage points annually thereafter. In addition, there is a new indicative target of 49% renewables in the heating of buildings. In the transport sector, the binding target increases from 14% to 29%. A new binding sub-target in transport includes a combination of electricity-based renewable fuels (RFNBOs) and advanced biofuels. This sub-target is 5.5%, of which 1% is to be covered by hydrogen and RFNBOs.
In the industrial sector, a new mandatory target is set for the use of hydrogen and RFNBOs. 42% of the hydrogen consumed in industry in 2030 must come from renewable energy sources. This corresponds to an increase of up to approximately 20-25 TWh. By 2035, the share is to rise to 60%. Depending on the scenario, about 41 to 83 TWh of hydrogen from renewable energy sources will be needed for this in Germany, since at the same time industry is using more and more hydrogen. In addition, as a new indicative target, the share of renewable energies in total energy consumption in industry is to increase by 1.6% each year.
Regulations to accelerate the expansion of renewables will be lifted and made permanent. Regulations to accelerate approval procedures for the expansion of renewable energies and grid expansion, as agreed on in the EU Emergency Regulation, will be largely made permanent. For example, the expansion of renewable energy sources and grid expansion are in the overriding public interest. Time-consuming evaluation procedures are therefore not necessary in priority areas (such as a second environmental and species protection assessment at project level, if an assessment already took place at planning level). However, this only applies if appropriate avoidance or compensation measures have been taken, and if the level of nature conservation remains high.
New momentum in cross-border projects In addition, there is new impetus for cross-border renewable energy projects: every Member State must tackle at least one cross-border cooperation project so that cooperation can be strengthened. Such cooperation projects include, for example, joint offshore projects. Given the recently signed offshore project "Bornholm Energy Island" between Germany and Denmark, Germany is one of the pioneers in the EU in this area.
Low carbon fuels do not count towards renewable energy targets. A compromise was also found on the long-standing issue of how to count low-carbon combustibles and fuels, such as hydrogen based on nuclear power. Low carbon fuels do not count towards renewable energy targets. So there is still a clear distinction between green H2 and low carbon H2. This is something that the German government worked hard to achieve in the run-up to the agreement. Member States that meet their national target contribution to the EU 2030 target and whose industry uses almost exclusively decarbonised fuels receive a discount on the hydrogen sub-target in industry and thus a little more flexibility.
Ramping up e-fuels in the aviation sector The simultaneous agreement on ReFuelEU Aviation means that the use of e-fuels in aviation is highly encouraged where they are urgently needed, since it is virtually impossible to use direct electric drives. What has been law in Germany since 2021 now applies at EU level: Germany was the first country worldwide to introduce a mandatory quota on e-fuels. Across the EU, at least 1.2% e-fuels must now be used from 2030 onwards and it will be as much as 2% by 2032. The rate will rise to 35% by 2050. In total, at least 70% renewable aviation fuels must be used in the target year 2050, which alongside e-fuels includes biofuels from residual and waste materials.