Fit for 55: Energy ministers must ensure increased ambition during EU presidency transition

Energy transition

With discussions at the Energy Council due to take place on the 2nd of December 2021, EU Energy ministers will take stock of the first round of examinations by governments of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) recast proposal and the proposed amendment of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) that have taken place in the last few months. As France prepares to take over the EU presidency, CAN Europe looks to the Member States to engage in negotiations that will lead to overshooting of the level of ambition outlined by the Commission in these proposals to help the EU fulfil its commitment under the Paris Agreement. It is imperative that the level of ambition is increased and a binding EU energy efficiency target of at least 45% and an EU renewable energy target of at least 50% by 2030 are set to help bring the EU on the right track (see also this CAN Europe article). 


Energy savings are key

There is a discrepancy between recognising the crucial importance and benefits of energy efficiency policies for reaching an increased climate ambition by 2030 and the commitment needed by the Council to step up the overall ambition level of the EED, including having an increased binding EU energy efficiency target complemented by national mandatory targets. 

Preliminary comments by governments on the EED recast proposal (as shown in the EED progress report) in the past months hint to a reluctance to work towards the ambition level needed. Governments must do what they can to have more energy savings to help stay within the 1.5°C limit enshrined in the Paris Agreement. Member States should agree on bolder measures to achieve at least 45 % energy savings by 2030. 

Maximising the opportunities to save energy through an ambitious EED includes strengthening the energy savings obligation. This is a tool that aims to achieve energy savings among final consumers through the implementation of energy efficiency measures. The annual energy savings requirement of the obligation needs to increase to at least 2% from 2024 onwards. The proposed exclusion of fossil fuel technologies and the energy savings deriving from the use of direct fossil fuel combustion to count towards the energy savings obligation will contribute to a climate proof energy system and help to move away from replacing fossil oil or gas boilers with  more efficient fossil gas boilers. Continuing the support to the installation of new fossil gas boilers would also be at odds with the Net Zero by 2050- report of the International Energy Agency .

Proposals by the Commission to make the public sector a frontrunner and ensure the exemplary role of public buildings are crucial elements of the renovation wave and for reaping the energy savings potential in the public sector and should not be watered down. Among the measures needed to decarbonise the EU building stock are long-term energy savings through public buildings’ renovation without exceptions. 


Support for renewables only

A sharp increase of renewable energy capacities is indispensable for the Paris Agreement’s Objective to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 °C and action in the next 10 years will be decisive in reaching this objective. The current proposal for amending the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) is putting forward an increase of the EU 2030 renewable energy target to at least 40 % by 2030 which does not go far enough. Instead, Member States should agree on an EU renewable energy target of at least 50 % by 2030. 

In addition to a higher EU 2030 renewable energy target, the revised RED should support the direct use of renewable electricity in all sectors, exclude all provisions that incentivise fossil fuels and non-renewable energies, ensure meaningful sustainability criteria for bioenergy and a review of administrative procedures taking into account citizen engagement and biodiversity protection.

The Renewable Energy Directive pursues the goal of promoting renewable forms of energy and aims at creating an enabling framework for further deployment of renewables in different sectors. However, preliminary comments by some Member States in the past months hint towards further diluting the clear focus on renewables. The European Commission has included two new sub targets for Renewable Fuels of Non Biological Origin (RFNBOs, renewable hydrogen and its derivatives) in the RED revision and some Member States aim at enlarging the scope of these sub targets to cover, for example, hydrogen linked to fossil based fuels or nuclear energies (see Presidency progress report on RED). 

Before the launch of the RED revision (and the Fit for 55 Package), several organisations and MEPs signed on to a letter to the Executive Vice-President Timmermans in March of this year, in which they called for the revision of the Directive not to include provisions that incentivise fossil based – so-called “low-carbon” – fuels and non-renewable energies (such as nuclear energy). The signatories indicated this would generate significant public confusion and undermine trust in the EU’s renewable energy policy which is key to leveraging one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy. 

The European Commission rightly did not include new provisions hinting at fossil-based or nuclear energy in its proposal for amending the RED. Member States should refrain from an attempt to broaden the scope of the Directive beyond renewables. This would be counterproductive and risk promoting the fossil fuels and nuclear energy that renewables should be displacing from Europe’s energy system.


Looking ahead to the French presidency

To ensure the most ambitious outcome for the positioning of the Council towards the energy files in the Fit for 55 package, the upcoming French presidency needs to create a positive and forward looking engagement of the EU governments. This includes giving the right attention to reducing the energy demand and shifting towards a fully renewable energy system, while phasing out fossil fuels, also in relation to soaring electricity prices

Despite upcoming national elections, which could cause uncertainties and possible delays, the French presidency needs to stick to an ambitious timeline for concluding the positioning of the Council on the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Renewable Energy Directive – while taking into account the upcoming proposal of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive – still in the first six month of 2022.  


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