ENERGY

Cleaner energy (for all):

For all a cleaner planet

July 26, 2017   |   By Megan Richards, Director for Energy Policy, DG ENER, European Commission

IMAGE: Colourbox

Megan Richards is Director for Energy Policy in DG Energy (ENER) at the European Commission since 1st April 2017. She holds Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Laws and Master of Public Administration degrees. She has worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Africa, the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, the government of Canada, and private law firms. In 1991,  she joined the European Commission and has worked on programmes supporting SMEs, research and innovation, including regulatory, legal, financial and contractual issues. From September 2006 - April 2009, she was Director of Resource Management at the Commission's Joint Research Centre, and from May 2009, she was part of the Commission's DG CONNECT; holding positions of Director of General Affairs, Director of Converged Networks and Services, Director of Coordination, and acting Deputy Director General and Principal Adviser. During 2013-2014, she was EU Fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University.

The ratification of the Paris Agreement in November 2016 was an important step in the fight against Climate Change as it marks commitment to a path with global ambition. As a European Commission official I was particularly pleased with the role that the EU was able to play in brokering the 2015 deal and its subsequent ratification.

 

To underscore this ambition and commitment, the European Commission adopted its November 2016 package "Clean Energy for All Europeans", which outlines the legislative framework to enable the EU meet its Paris objectives, again demonstrating EU leadership on this crucial issue for the whole planet.

 

I would like to outline how this legislative package should facilitate the continuing clean energy transition in Europe and its advantages for business, consumers and, above all, for tackling climate change.

 

Let me start with the clean energy transition, which is well underway and gathering speed at an accelerating pace. Renewables now account for half of all added power generation capacity in the world, accounting for global investment of over 300 billion EURO, and creating 8.1 million jobs in the global renewables sector.

 

And in Europe, where wind has now overtaken coal as the second most important source of power generation, and where renewables are frequently cost competitive compared with

traditional fuels, we are keen to be at the forefront of this transition. After all, decarbonising our energy system is not just good for the climate; it is also a key driver for our economy and global competitiveness.

 

The Clean Energy for All Europeans package is designed to translate the Paris Agreement into concrete actions and to ensure that our energy system is fit for purpose. Its aim is to achieve targets for 2030 of reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions by 40%, achieving a 27% share of renewables, and a binding 30% level of Energy Efficiency. We know that getting there will be challenging, which is why the package includes a strategy to trigger investment in clean and sustainable solutions. Our goal is to make the EU No 1 in renewables and to provide a clear market for innovation to boost EU economic growth and jobs.

 

Consumers will play a key role in achieving the flexibility that we need to integrate abundant renewables and to provide quick and efficient demand response. The Clean Energy for All Europeans package puts consumers at the centre of the clean energy transition. First by making it easier for them to produce their own energy and to consume it, store it, or sell it to the grid in a cost-effective way, and by ensuring that consumers are adequately rewarded for the electricity they sell to the grid. Second, the grid is to become more flexible at both generation and consumer ends to foster self-generation and demand-response so that consumers can adjust their consumption to price fluctuations due to variable availability of power from wind and sun, thereby benefitting from lower electricity prices. Third, consumers will have access to secure and reliable information regarding their supply and consumption of energy, so they should be able to switch providers more easily, get clearer billing and comparison tools, and reduce restrictions and switching fees. We are already seeing change in this area where € 382 million from EFSI funds, has allowed the EU to support the roll-out of smart meters to reduce energy use and help households save money.

 

However, we will only be able to meet these ambitious targets if we also make more efficient use of energy, hence the proposed binding 30% energy efficiency target for 2030 at EU level. Compared to the current 27% target, attaining this more ambitious goal will also help to create 400,000 new jobs, and stimulate growth in the construction and engineering sectors, which are among the biggest employers in the EU. The new target aims to also reduce gas imports by 12% and add €70 billion worth of savings in fossil fuel imports.

 

The clean energy transition must also address the most vulnerable people of our society. So the legislative proposals tackle energy poverty and foster energy efficiency in buildings to help insulate the homes of vulnerable people - thus reducing their heating and cooling costs - and lift up to 3.2 million households out of energy poverty.

 

Finally, the package will enhance security of energy supply. Regional interconnections will be encouraged and developed and a risk-preparedness mechanism will anticipate and avoid interruptions to the supply of electricity. This will promote more integrated and competitive markets that, in turn, will ensure that electricity flows at all times to those places where it's most needed.

 

Together, these proposals will unlock Europe's growth and jobs potential while ensuring that energy prices are ever more competitive and affordable. They will also aim at

ensuring that all Europeans can always benefit from secure, affordable and clean energy supplies.

 

Finally, in response to a specific request from the editor, let me just say a few words in response to the announcement by President Trump that the US government would pull out of its Paris commitments. EU Energy & Climate Action Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete has expressed the Commission's disappointment at this decision but he rightly noted that the American action and commitment is not limited to the Federal government. Indeed the reactions that we have seen in the US – from city mayors, state governors, CEOs of corporations and citizens groups in the "We are still in" declaration, or the individual States that have joined the US Climate Alliance - highlight that we will continue to have many active and influential partners within the USA, even if the current federal administration has dropped the former commitments. Europe's resolve and leadership on this crucial issue will be even more important in the years to come.

 

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