World : European energy groups push EU for tougher climate change goals

Some of Europe’s largest energy companies have accused the EU of lacking ambition in the fight against climate change and urged more aggressive targets for growth in renewable power. The declaration, by companies including Iberdrola of Spain, Enel of Italy and SSE of the UK, came as negotiators gathered in Bonn for the latest round of international talks on tackling global warming. A proposed target for renewables to meet 27 per cent of EU energy consumption by 2030, up from 16.7 per cent in 2015, “lacks ambition and would slow down the current rate of renewables deployment” in Europe, the companies said. Their intervention shows the extent to which the energy industry — once seen as a roadblock to action against climate change — is embracing the transition away from fossil fuels. Most big western European utilities have, to varying degrees, been reducing dependence on coal and gas-fired power generation in favour of wind and solar power in response to subsidies and other political measures to promote green energy. But in some cases, companies are now moving more aggressively than policymakers as the falling cost of wind and solar increases economic incentives for the switch. The statement, by companies also including EnBW of Germany, EDP of Portugal and Orsted, the Danish group previously known as Dong Energy, called for an EU-wide binding target for 35 per cent renewable energy by 2030. Such a target was needed, the companies said, to “restore the EU’s global leadership” in green energy and to preserve efficiency gains, which had made renewables “the most competitive option for new power generation in Europe”. The proposed renewables target is part of a package of measures intended to help the EU meet its carbon reduction commitments under the Paris climate agreement. EU policymakers are struggling to reconcile support for more aggressive action in much of western Europe with resistance from central Europe where coal-fired power generation remains dominant. The biggest flashpoint in talks has been over proposed reforms of the EU emissions trading system to increase the price paid by power stations and factories for the carbon dioxide they put into the atmosphere. Further talks are expected this week after an earlier round broke down over Polish opposition to measures that would prevent revenues from carbon trading to be used to modernise coal-fired power stations. The EU wants a deal to burnish its climate commitments during the Bonn talks, which start on Monday and run for two weeks with a focus on how to implement the Paris agreement. Ignacio Galán, chairman of Iberdrola, said a “transparent and predictable European policy framework” was essential to drive further investment in renewables. Dave Jones, analyst at Sandbag, the climate think-tank, said there was an increasing gulf between western European utilities, which were staking their futures on renewable power, and those in central and eastern Europe, which remained wedded to coal. Western European utilities were increasingly seeing fossil fuel power generation as a back-up to renewables, he added. “They are recognising that, while fossil fuels still have a role to play during the transition, that role is limited in its intensity and its timespan.”

 

Source : https://www.ft.com/content/4d39bd72-c20c-11e7-a1d2-6786f39ef675

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