Renewables are crucial to reducing CO2 emissions

Renewables are crucial to reducing CO2 emissions, writes Gert De Block.

Gert De Block | Photo credit: CEDEC

By Gert De Block

13 Jun 2017

When I started working in the energy sector, protecting the environment was an issue highlighted mainly by activists. Global climate issues were covered primarily by Conventions with elaborate names and few concrete results. 

From 1991 onwards, based on a growing recognition of the negative impact of CO2 emissions, the European Union's environmental policy developed steadily through a series of legislative measures. 

However, it is only recently that coherent actions on both climate and energy policies have got a foothold, triggered by technological developments that allowed the rapid expansion of renewable energy. It is now generally accepted and politically endorsed that ambitious measures and a strict time schedule are necessary to safeguard the living environment for future generations.


At CEDEC, the European Federation of Local Energy Companies, we welcome the revised climate and energy approach of the European Commission. We believe that ambitious and integrated actions are decisive to realising the politically agreed CO2 reduction and to making Europe more energy-independent and competitive as it strives to attain global leadership in sustainable technologies.

An ambitious 2030 target for renewable energy sources is essential to stay on track for the challenging 2050 targets. I am also convinced that a strong EU governance is equally important to guide and follow up on the individual member states, to ensure continued political focus.

To reach the renewables targets we need reliable, secure and cost-efficient energy infrastructures. At present, more than 90 per cent of all renewable energy installations are connected to the distribution grids. I believe that well-functioning and smart energy distribution grids - with the necessary regulatory conditions to incentivise innovative investments - will play a central role. 

Retroactive changes in the past have deterred investors from new projects and obstructed new technological developments. A long term vision and an ambitious and stable investment environment are key for developing renewable technologies.

Extending support schemes to projects in neighbouring countries seems an adequate response to reach an optimal exploitation of the potential of renewable resources at a regional scale. 

However, the mandatory character at the start should be limited, and its evolution should depend on a thorough evaluation of costs and benefits, ensuring acceptance from national taxpayers. 

Transparency is another element I consider crucial within this reform. Extending the use of Guarantees of Origin to all types of energy is the logical instrument for ensuring consumers can make informed choices.

Finally, renewable energy still needs to be supported by clear and strong legislative measures and better promoted to energy consumers. High expectations have been placed upon the sole capacity of the market to bring effective and cost-efficient solutions to all the challenges that come with the energy transition. 

However, the continued promotion of renewable energy sources remains one of the crucial pillars of a win-win integrated climate and energy approach, and therefore the current revision of the renewable energy directive should be supported with concrete, diverse and ambitious measures.


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