The Future of Energy in Europe

Today, February 4th,  European Union leaders are holding their first ever energy summit. Although the policy agenda looks likely to be overshadowed by  pressing issues such as Egypt and the eurozone debt crisis, Europe must significantly enhance its climate action, without any delay, to stay on track toward meeting the goals mandated by law under the EU Climate and Energy Package of 2008.

In March 2007 the EU’s leaders endorsed an integrated approach to climate and energy policy that aimed to combat climate change and increase the EU’s energy security while strengthening its competitiveness. They committed Europe to transforming itself into a highly energy-efficient, low-carbon economy.

To kick-start this process, the EU Heads of State and Government set a series of demanding climate and energy targets to be met by 2020, known as the “20-20-20” targets:

  • A reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions of at least 20% below 1990 levels
  • 20% of EU energy consumption to come from renewable resources
  • A 20% reduction in primary energy use compared with projected levels, to be achieved by improving energy efficiency.

In January 2008 the European Commission proposed binding legislation to implement the 20-20-20 targets. This ‘climate and energy package’ was agreed by the European Parliament and Council in December 2008 and became law in June 2009.

The EU leaders also made a conditional commitment to scale up the EU’s GHG emissions reduction for 2020 from 20% to 30% if “other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emission reductions and economically more advanced developing countries contribute adequately to a global effort according to their responsibilities and respective capabilities”.


In May 2010, despite the actions of certain companies and strong internal opposition within the European Commission itself, arguing that the conditions had not yet been met, a detailed EU analysis showed that, due to the economic changes of the last two years, achieving a 30% target was now almost as inexpensive as achieving a 20% target was estimated to be in 2008

The additional question is if Europe can meet its long-term climate target of 80 to 95% emissions reductions by 2050?  (from 1990 levels).

Ahead of this week’s meeting , during the presentation of  an independent study by Öko-Institut that sets out a detailed energy scenario for Europe up to 2050, the Greens/EFA energy spokesperson Claude Turmes urged the EU leaders to “set out a course to ensure the EU becomes an energy leader and not an energy loser”.

Greens/EFA co-president Rebecca Harms added:

 “Further delaying decisive action on energy efficiency and renewables will heighten the risk that Europe will lose out to emerging economies like China in the growing green tech sector. We also need to move swiftly to reduce our damaging dependence on energy imports, which leads to the transfer of € billions to oil, gas and nuclear exporting countries. Investing in energy efficiency, home grown renewable energy and energy infrastructure would not only ensure Europe remains a leader in this emerging market and act as a crucial source of employment creation, it would also save Europe €130 billion in 2020, €260 billion in 2030 and €455 billion in 2050. We simply cannot afford to take another path.”


According to Jason Anderson, spokesman for the World Wildlife Fund:

“It is essential for Europe to reduce our dependence on expensive, polluting, insecure energy sources.”


Clear priorities mus be set to ensure immediate action. Existing priorities should also be revisited. The Iter nuclear fusion reactor project for example, which European financing rescue plan has been rejected last December by the European Parliament. This project, viewed by its defender as the future of clean energy, has been strongly opposed by Greenpeace International and other ecologist organizations in Europe and particularly in France, were the reactor is being built. According to Greenpeace’s Jan Vande Putte,  “Governments should not waste our money on a dangerous toy which will never deliver any useful energy”. “Instead, they should invest in renewable energy which is abundantly available, not in 2080 but today.”