The EU's Renewable Energy Directive (RED), which came into force in April 2009 is certainly stepping up a gear.
The RED is only a Directive and a framework, and National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs) need to display the real measures that countries will implement to ensure their targets are achieved.
All RED does is oblige the Member States to achieve their own sub-target - as listed in the annex of the Directive, as well as show a growth prognosis for renewable energy development as we move forward. Apart from that, (and specifying a minimum renewable share of 10% in “sustainable” transport fuels) - the countries are free to determine their sectors, measures and policies. They can, for example, focus on electricity, on heating and cooling or on transport, or on a mixture of these.
So what can we expect by 30 June this year?
First, the European Commission has learned a lot from its disappointing experience with similar National Action Plans for energy efficiency (NEEAPs) - see the Jan/Feb issue of Renewable Energy Focus, page 44.
Many countries did not meet their 30 June 2007 deadlines, and the ones that did only showed a business-as-usual approach. These so-called NEEAPs were too poorly developed to meet the objective of harvesting a large scale energy efficiency potential. New policies should be integrated and more coherently designed, instead of being a collection of individual measures.
So last summer the Commission published a template that every country had to use to write its RE action plan. Every country is required to show the growth trajectory for renewable energy in two different scenarios: business-as-usual, and with an enforced energy efficiency policy.
In different chapters countries also need to give an overview of all their intended policies and measures. Many details are required, such as policies concerning grid and infrastructure adaptations, and an enforcement policy regarding sustainability criteria for biofuels.
Enforcement and monitoring
Another important issue is finding a way of monitoring this progress. Policies are not yet harmonised across the EU, but monitoring will be more or less the same throughout the entire Bloc. So in the Final Analysis, the figures of all countries will be judged in a consistent way.
For most countries at this stage, the official National Action Plans will be no more than filling in a template with running policies and measures. In most of Europe, countries have already established their RE policies. And in many cases the national target already contains a higher share than the mandatory target listed in the RED Annex (i.e. the Netherlands decided in 2007 that a 20% renewable share in primary energy should be the 2020 target. This is the equivalent of a 17% share in gross final consumption of energy, which exceeds the mandatory EU goal of 14% in gross final consumption of energy for the Netherlands).
But for example in many eastern European countries, composing a National Action Plan is a much bigger challenge, because in many aspects a renewable energy policy is yet to be developed. These countries will have to invent new measures and show how they will implement them, something that is non trivial. These countries are up against it on the deadline.
Moreover, many countries now have to deal with a transition in Government too. In terms of writing a long-term action plan, this is a complication. Countries like Germany, the UK and the Netherlands have a new Government (or will shortly get a new one). The new coalitions are likely to have quite different views on the development of renewable energy. Despite this the action plans cover the period up until 2020, although in the procedures there are some opportunities to modify NAPs going forward.
What do we know?
National Governments have to date not been transparent in giving anything away about their action plans. But behind the scenes, deliberations are taking place between Member States themselves, with the Commission and the renewable energy industry.
The renewable energy industry in particular - under the auspices of the European Parliament’s (Eufores) renewable energy organisation - is now trying to influence national policy.
By filling in the NREAP template themselves, they are trying to provide a benchmark for the official documents. National Governments can therefore be inspired by these roadmaps, and if they stray far off the growth scenarios from these roadmaps they at least have something to explain.
It goes without saying that the industrial roadmaps provide higher numbers than the mandatory targets from the EU directory. In one of the roadmaps that was recently completed, the German sector exceeded its mandatory EU target of 18% by at least 10%!
It seems that the renewable energy industry and the European Parliament want to rekindle an old promise by supercharging the roadmaps - in early political discussions they advocated a mandatory 25% share of renewables by 2020, but were outvoted by the Member States.
It seems like wishful thinking, but then again, it may be more realistic than it looks at first glance. In December, all Member States had to submit their expectations regarding the import and export of renewables from - and with - other Member States.
Ten member states predicted a surplus, while five countries expected they would need to import renewable energy. The overall balance sheet added up to a total EU share of renewables that exceeded the 20% slightly (by 0.3%).
That is promising. On 8 March, Eufores issued a press release in which it called for ‘strong national action plans’ - which exceed the 20% target. After 30 June we will know. But of course we will only know in 2020, by reading the real figures, whether this discussion really made a difference or not.