EU 2030 Shows Best of Bureaucrats

I’m finding talk of 2030 a little unnerving.  In 17 years I will be nearing 50 and my 3 month old daughter will be learning to drive.

alan-partridgeI’ll be into corderoys, Christmas-jumpers and Classic FM, she’ll have swapped her baby gro for a onesie, her dummie for a tongue piercing and her BCG jab for a tattoo.

Yet, there is hope that some things will be brighter in 2030.  And (to a certain extent) it comes from Brussels.

While the UK politicians wrangle over target-setting to combat climate change in the third decade of this century, the EU have gone and got their crystal ball out.

Free from the 5 year electoral cycle that undermines national efforts to deal with energy supply and climate change, the EU Commission has set out a bold vision for the next phase of Europe’s clean energy future.  EU proposals released today are seeking to commit the continent to 2030 targets of  30% of our electricity generated from renewable sources and cuts in our carbon emissions by 40% based on 1990 levels.eu2030

Combating climate change requires consistent and determined action with long-term policies delivered at a supra-national level.  The Commission should be congratulated for showing its best side in filling an important political lacuna caused by the short-termism of national governments.

That said, the numbers themselves are not extraordinarily exciting.

Focusing on the 30% renewable target, it’s an increase of 10% in 10 years from the 20% by 2020 target.

offshorewindturbinesYet just last week in the UK, wind power was producing enough power to satisfy 10% of UK’s total electricity demand.  There is plenty more in the pipeline.

In Denmark the week before, the wind turbines were producing enough to satisfy 100% of the demand (albeit in the dead of night).

With the notable exceptions of Poland and Cyprus countries across the EU are making good progress towards meeting the 20% generation target for renewables by 2020.  With the know-how and supply chains established within the European economy by 2020, increasing generation to 30% should be simply a question of finding the right locations for projects, and the cash to build them. As technologies become more efficient, versatile and more aesthetically pleasing, siting should become less of an obstacle.

Cash, on the other hand, will remain in short supply.

Which is why one of the major headlines from the EU’s announcement today was that the Commission will be encouraging governments not to raise existing or introduce new energy taxes (the traditional means to support the renewable sector).green_pound_wide

Instead, the Commission has asked for the focus to be put on improving energy efficiency to reduce demand and ensure European industry remains competitive.  That is also the message from DECC in the UK.  It is a difficult message to deliver, but it is the right approach.

Unfortunately, improving energy efficiency is an expensive business in the short term, before yielding attractive long-term savings.   As the government’s Green Deal shows, innovative ways to remove that upfront costs can be portrayed as confusing, with scaremongers discouraging consumers from taking action to reduce demand while complaining bitterly as costs of that consumption rise steeply.

imagesThe EU and DECC will need to continue to create and promote initiatives to improve energy efficiency amongst residential and industrial consumers and make reducing demand popular and cost-effective.

If they manage to do that, and achieve these long-term targets for renewables, the UK in 2030 could be a cleaner, cheaper and more prosperous place to live and run a business.

Ah, yes, the joy of harnessing the elements to provide one third of our power.  That will raise a satisfied smile as I hold back my teenager’s hair while she pays homage to the porcelain God.  Bring on 2030!

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