The European Parliament voted on Wednesday, 14 September in favour of a 45% target for renewable energy in the EU’s energy mix by 2030 as part of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED III), paving the way for negotiations with the member states in order to finalise the text before the end of the year.
The vote followed a debate on 13 September, featuring an opening address from MEP Markus Pieper (EPP), the Rapporteur, who stressed the importance of an ambitious approach to renewables to attain Europe’s energy independence and reach the EU’s green energy goals. In his speech and during the debate, MEPs generally highlighted current energy crises: the Russian invasion of Ukraine and REPowerEU’s subsequent efforts to eliminate dependency on Russian gas, the high temperatures this summer, and the continued challenge of meeting climate targets by 2030. These crises served to underscore the importance of RED III and the renewable energy sector before voting occurred the following day.
RED III includes a higher target for renewables: 45% by 2030. Adina-Ioana Vălean (European Commission) called the legislation an “important file” which included “good progress made with high ambitions for decarbonization”.
Hydrogen was a widespread topic in discussions. Mr. Pieper expressed a wish to support more cross-border hydrogen projects and use green hydrogen to reduce energy costs, especially in buildings, an emphasis on hydrogen that was echoed by other MEPs. MEPs also stressed the need for a diverse energy supply, including renewable sources such as geothermal energy and different forms of solar power, to reap economic benefits and ensure larger-scale deployment.
An important topic of debate was the role of biomass, which proved to be divisive. Mr. Pieper defended wood-based biomass as a renewable energy source, while Maria Spyraki stated that there needed to be more flexibility in biomass. Certain MEPs (Grzegorz Tobiszowski, Christophe Grudler, Zdzislaw Krasnodebski) supported biomass, while cautioning the continued need to protect forests, while others were more overtly against biomass (Mick Wallace, Martin Häusling, Nils Torvalds). Mr. Wallace accentuated that fact that forests were “not renewable, they are ecosystems which cannot just be replanted.”
The nonbinding nature of the target for heating and cooling was criticized, particularly as the heating and cooling sector encompasses half of the energy demand. Instead, MEPs requested a binding target on heating and cooling to ensure effective implementation.
During voting procedures, 418 MEPs voted in favor of RED III, 109 against, and 111 abstained from the vote on the final report. In addition to approving the 45% target for renewables, text and amendments as approved also define sub-targets for sectors such as transport, buildings, and district heating and cooling. RED III furthermore includes an increase from 13% to 16% in the greenhouse gas emission reduction target for transport, as well as a 5.7% share of renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBO) in the fuel market by 2030, as set out in the Commission’s REPowerEU programme. Other REPowerEU goals, such as the definition of “go-to areas” and faster permitting procedures for renewable energies, were not approved in this version of the directive.
RED III is nevertheless an important step forward for renewables and for innovative renewables. Mr. Pieper held a press conference following the vote, where he reacted to the vote as a “good day for Europe’s energy transition”. He highlighted the success of the 45% target which raised the EU’s goals for renewables, allowing for greater energy independence particularly in light of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Furthermore, this 45% capacity includes an indicative target which stipulates that 5% of new renewable energy capacity installed in each member state should involve an innovative technology. This target is a bold and necessary action to scale up next-generation renewable technologies and bring them to market quickly, thereby providing Europe and the world with clean, affordable energy.