In order to implement the Green Deal, it is of vital importance to make the energy sector more efficient and to increase renewable energy sources. The Austrian Chamber of Labour has participated in the Consultation of the European Commission and stresses: the spotlight has to be put on the distribution policy effects of energy transition.
The negotiations on the latest amendment of both the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Renewable Energy Directive were completed two years ago and has been in force since last year. However, Brussels has not stood still since then: the new Commission under President Ursula von der Leyen has put the Green Deal and the target of climate neutrality by 2050 at the top of its agenda. That is why a new proposal by the Commission to amend these Directives is to be expected for 2021.
From the point of view of the Chamber of Labour, the ambitious target to increase the share of renewable energies in the EU should be supported. However, there is a need of binding targets at Member State level. Instead of dividing the requirements between Member States, they are currently asked to outline how much they are willing to contribute to reaching the target EU-wide in national energy and climate plans. Not least in Austria, drawing up the energy and climate plan proved to be extremely adversarial. Above all, this complicated set of rules and checks is accompanied by high administrative efforts, which significantly restrict the effectiveness of reaching the target. Hence, the lack of binding expansion targets at Member State level significantly undermines the ambitious targets of reducing exhaust and greenhouse gas emissions.
Binding targets are also required for energy efficiency: in order to actually implement the “Energy efficiency first” principle, the energy efficiency target, which sets a target of reducing primary energy consumption by 32.5% by 2030, has to be mandatory both at EU as well as at national level. Experiences with comparable programmes have shown that targets cannot be achieved by voluntary measures alone. Binding targets provide legal and investment certainty and create positive stimuli for the energy efficiency services market. From the point of view of the Chamber of Labour it is also unacceptable that it is not obligatory to include the transport sector in the calculation base for the energy efficiency target, even though according to the European Environment Agency it is responsible for 22 % of the EU’s total emissions (without international aviation and maritime transport). With a share of 34.5 %, transport is even the main energy consumer in Austria. Without this sector, the Energy Efficiency Directive will run the risk of remaining ineffective.
Something, which from the Chamber of Labour’s opinion comes up short in the entire discussion surrounding the energy transition is the consideration of the distribution policy effects. It is of vital significance that the cost of generating renewable energies is fairly shared between all electricity consumers. This requires clear EU-wide guidelines to stop the one-side financial burden of private households in favour of large consumers, such as energy intensive firms. This makes an EU-wide regulation to exempt energy poor households from subsidies for green energy necessary. Exemptions for energy intensive companies should only be allowed if they contribute to decarbonisation and help to protect the climate. Comprehensible criteria for these exemptions are also needed to avoid massive unfair competition within the European Union. Member states might be compelled to relieve local companies with generous exemptions, which would inevitably result in a race to grant the greatest benefits. In the end, consumers with little consumption – both private households and small enterprises – will have to carry the cost for generating renewable energy for long periods to come.