EU Renewables deal: a "ray of light" in the EU’s climate and energy package

Light bulbs deal a bit dimmer

Feature story - 10 December, 2008
As EU politicians reach a good agreement on renewable energy targets, Greenpeace declares the deal to be a ray of light amid the gloomy stone-age positions of EU member states on other elements of the package.

The UK's first wind farm in the Irish Sea which will supply 50,000 homes with power.

Finally, some good news has come out of the EU's climate and energy package. The result is a pay off for three years of campaigning for an Energy [R]evolution in Europe. With your help we've researched and published reports, lobbied MEPs, heads of state, commissioners and energy firms around Europe, and undertaken dozens of actions. Our campaigns for Europe to quit coal, say no to nuclear power and yes to an Energy [R]evolution have reached millions and the message is finally starting to be heard.

What has been agreed for the renewables law?

Binding national targets for each of the EU's 27 member states mean that the EU's 20 percent target for energy produced from renewable technologies such as wind and solar by 2020 can now become a reality.

The directive agreed today will ensure better support for the use of renewable energy in electricity, heating and cooling, and transport. It gives EU member states the option of cooperating with each other to achieve their targets, and it also includes provisions make it easier for renewable technologies to be connected to energy networks faster.

Frauke Thies, our EU renewables policy campaigner, says: "We give the EU 8 out of 10 for its renewables deal. This agreement is a new dawn for a clean energy future that will benefit both the climate and the economy."

Unsustainable biofuels are still on the agenda

Unfortunately, the directive still encourages widespread use of biofuels, which in particular  . allows car manufacturers a get-out clause for reducing their emissions. While on the surface making fuels from plants to cut carbon emissions sounds perfect, there is mounting evidence that many biofuels might actually be worse for the climate than fossil fuels.

Lightbulb legislation is dimmer than renewables

Meanwhile, another part of the EU's climate efforts are meant to address efficiency standards. Greater energy efficiency is half of the solution in the fight against climate change. As part of our energy efficiency campaign, we have been calling on the EU to introduce minimum efficiency standards for lightbulbs. Incandescent bulbs waste an incredible 97 percent of the energy they consume. Yet, energy-saving lightbulbs that use five times less energy and last for up to ten times longer than inefficient bulbs have existed for years.

It seems that the EU partly shares our view, but not nearly enough of it. It has voted to ensure that incandescents are off the market by 2012 - something to celebrate indeed. But - and this is crucial - it is allowing halogen lights - only 25 percent less inefficient than incandescents - to remain on the European market until 2016.  

The EU has chosen to make only half of the potential energy savings it could have done, had it also banned inefficient halogen lights. That's the equivalent to the energy savings of the annual electricity consumption of 11 million households that has been simply thrown away.

This is not good enough! Global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2015, and then fall dramatically. Reducing the contribution of the lighting sector towards greenhouse gas emissions means outlawing all inefficient products on the market.

Renewables agreement - a sunny spell before heavy showers?

Inefficient light bulbs are not the worst of it. European governments are busy undermining other parts of the EU's climate effort. Proposals that industries like power generation and steel making be given for free credits which should be auctioned risks turning 'the polluter pays' into 'pay the polluter'. 

As Thies concludes: "Some EU politicians have shown with the deal on renewables that they are indeed capable of offering a clean and sustainable energy supply. But this agreement could be just a sunny spell before heavy showers, as European leaders create loophole after loophole in other parts of the EU's package of laws to tackle climate change."

Europe needs an Energy [R]evolution

Greenpeace's European Energy [R]evolution shows that development of renewable technologies and improvements in energy efficiency across Europe could lead to some €500 billion in fuel cost savings until 2020. The blueprint for a clean energy future shows how the EU can reduce its carbon footprint through phasing out nuclear power and coal, and instead investing in clean energy.

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