By ALESSANDRO TORELLO
BRUSSELS -- European countries have to do more if they want to meet targets to increase the use of renewable energy by 2020, the European Union's executive body said Wednesday, warning that failure to meet those targets would have "major consequences."
"While progress has been made until 2010, there are reasons for concern about future progress," the European Commission said in a statement. "Current policies alone will be insufficient to trigger the required renewable energy deployment in a majority of member states. Hence, additional efforts will be needed for member states to stay on track in the forthcoming years," it said.
The EU's overall target of increasing the role of renewable energy to 20% of consumption in 2020, with each member country having its specific one, is one of three main headline goals that form the bloc's climate policy for this decade.
The renewable target is a key part of that policy and failure to meet that goal would seriously undermine its credibility, especially as a second goal -- increasing energy saving -- is already under threat.
In addition, the EU's carbon market -- the bloc's flagship program in reducing greenhouse gas emissions -- is under pressure, as prices have fallen to record lows, raising questions about its effectiveness.
The news also comes just as the bloc is starting to debate the future of its policy to 2030.
Missing the 2020 target would slow down the EU's path to becoming more energy independent and undermine the EU's ambition to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions by mid century, the commission said. It would also slow the reduction in production costs, therefore limiting the competitiveness of the European industry in the sector, it explained.
According to EU data, in 2010 the share of renewable energy in the bloc was 12.7%, but the situation was very different from country to country. Each nation has a specific 2020 target and data differed widely, with Sweden already overshooting it three years ago and the UK reaching only 3.3% out of a 15% goal.
"For progress to continue and to meet the targets in 2020, more efforts will be needed. Efforts must be especially made in creating certainty for investors, reducing the administrative burden and increasing clarity in the planning," the commission said.
Renewable energy is often still subsidized in Europe, but many voices, including the EU, are starting to call for a phase out of incentives, to leave the sector to operate more freely according to market dynamics, as the technologies reach the maturity stage.
Connection to the broader electricity grid has also been an issue for renewable energy, which is by definition intermittent and has created problems of oversupply to national electricity networks, like in Germany over the summer.
Dow Jones Newswires