30th Mar 2023

Study: EU on track to smash 2030 40% clean energy target

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A new study suggests Europe is on course to exceed its renewable power target by 2030, as the energy crisis has supercharged the deployment of clean energy.

In an analysis of renewable energy deployment published on Tuesday (28 February), research institute Ember projects Europe will generate 45 percent of its power supply from renewable sources by 2030, rising to 50 with more support.

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Leading the charge is a surge in solar power, with capacity by 2030 at least double that originally forecast. The number of electric heat pumps is also expected to reach at least 60 million installed units — 50-percent more than expected under its landmark package of measures dubbed 'Fit for 55' launched only 18 months ago.

But this new reality is not reflected in the official EU target, which remains at 40 percent— a level of ambition the report concludes is "not only unambitious but outdated."

Last year the EU Commission proposed to raise the official clean energy target from 40 to 45 percent in response to the Russian gas cut-off. The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of the higher limit.

Still, a blocking minority of key member states, including France and Poland, resisted and pushed successfully to keep the 40-percent target.

This is still vastly more than what is currently generated in Europe, with solar, wind and biomass energy comprising 22 percent of the total electricity mix. But with the rapid deployment of renewables exceeding expectations, Ember analysts suggest it is high time to adapt the official EU commitment to the "new energy reality."

"40 percent renewables no longer reflects where we are heading," said Elisabeth Cremona, energy analyst at Ember. "Sticking with the lower target means aiming for failure."

Lower EU targets will have implications for national energy and climate policies (NECPs) which will be adjusted to the new figure in June 2024.

Poland had one of Europe's fastest-growing markets for electrified heat pumps but resisted a higher target. But power grids and storage capacity must be expanded to allow for intermittent solar and wind power and strengthened for the faster-than-expected uptake of electric vehicles and electrified heat pumps.

If targets do not reflect actual adoption rates, national plans could underestimate what needs to be done.

Green hydrogen

The report ends with a warning on green hydrogen —a fuel produced with solar and wind energy. The EU plans to produce 10 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030, which will require an additional 500,000 gigawatts—more than all added electric vehicles and heat pumps combined.

Therefore the researchers conclude green hydrogen should only be used to decarbonise heavy industry and "should not be promoted for other end-uses" pushed by hydrogen lobbyists such as heating or transportation "where more efficient electric options exist" as this would risk slowing down the transition.


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