The European Commission has unveiled a plan for a massive scaling-up and speeding-up of renewable energy in the EU, including a dedicated strategy to double the region’s installed solar capacity by 2025 and install 600GW of solar by 2030.
The comprehensive REPowerEU Plan, presented overnight by the Commission, says the shift to renewables for Europe now has “a double urgency,” spurred by both Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the escalating climate crisis.
The report estimates that the EU’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels, which are currently being used as an economic and political weapon, costs taxpayers nearly €100 billion per year.
“REPowerEU is about rapidly reducing our dependence on Russian fossil fuels by fast forwarding the clean transition and joining forces to achieve a more resilient energy system and a true Energy Union,” the report says.
“A massive scaling-up and speeding-up of renewable energy in power generation, industry, buildings and transport will accelerate our independence, give a boost to the green transition, and reduce prices over time.”
The Commission proposes to increase the bloc’s headline 2030 target for renewables from 40% to 45% under the Fit for 55 package.
And it proposes a target of 10 million tonnes of domestic renewable hydrogen production and 10 million tonnes of imports by 2030, to replace gas, coal and oil in industrial and transport sectors.
To support this ramp up in hydrogen production, the Commission is also publishing two Delegated Acts on the definition and production of renewable hydrogen – to ensure fossil fuels are not part of the mix.
But perhaps the most significant part of the new plan revolves around solar PV, which a separate report says “can be rolled-out rapidly and reward citizens and businesses with benefits for the climate and their purses.”
A 28-page dedicated EU Solar Strategy sets out how solar will be the “kingpin” of Europe’s decarbonsation and energy independence effort by adding more than 320GW of new PV capacity by 2025 and almost 600GW by 2030 – enough to displace 9 billion cubic metres of gas annually by 2027.
Further to this, a Solar Rooftop Initiative will phase-in legal obligation to install solar panels on new public, commercial and residential buildings.
“Solar energy, combined with energy efficiency, protects European citizens from the volatility of fossil fuel prices,” the Solar Strategy report says.
“EU citizens appreciate this autonomy to produce their own energy, either individually or collectively. It is a huge opportunity for whole cities and regions, especially those transitioning to a new energy and economic model.
“Massive deployment of solar energy is also a chance to reinforce the EU’s industrial leadership.
“By creating the right framework conditions, the EU can expand its manufacturing base, building on its vibrant competitive and innovation-driven environment while ensuring that solar products are up to the EU consumer’s high standards.”
To achieve all of this, the Commission says it will need reforms and changes on the regulatory side, and hundreds of billions of dollars in investments – roughly €210 billion between now and 2027.
“This is a down-payment on our independence and security. Cutting Russian fossil fuel imports can also save us almost €100 billion per year. These investments must be met by the private and public sector, and at the national, cross-border and EU level,” the report says.
On the regulatory side, the Commission proposes to “tackle slow and complex permitting” for renewable projects, and a targeted amendment to the Renewable Energy Directive to recognise renewables as an overriding public interest.
“Dedicated ‘go-to’ areas for renewables should be put in place by Member States with shortened and simplified permitting processes in areas with lower environmental risks,” it adds.
“To help quickly identify such ‘go-to’ areas, the Commission is making available datasets on environmentally sensitive areas as part of its digital mapping tool for geographic data related to energy, industry and infrastructure.”