The accelerating climate change drives us to act rapidly to reach a net-zero carbon economy by 2050 at the latest, in compliance with the Paris Agreement.
The incorporation of the Paris Agreement into EU law requires a strong governance that covers all aspects of the energy transition and maximises citizens and local authorities’ involvement in the formulation of national energy and climate plans and long-term climate and energy strategies.
It also requires more structured regional and macro-regional cooperation between Member States. The mobilisation of all forces at sub-national, national and supranational levels constitutes the multi-layer governance called for by the Parliament in the Governance Regulation.
One of the cornerstones of a new governance of the Energy Union should be carbon budget.
Carbon budget states the amount of greenhouse gases that can still be emitted in the atmosphere in order to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees, and even to 1.5 degrees. The global carbon budget is 890 Gt of CO2, of which Europe’s fair share could be between 47 and 61 Gt of CO2.
In order to stay within budget, more ambitious 2030 targets on climate, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency are needed. A “delayed approach” as proposed by the Commission would result in necessary sharper cuts later on, leading to a very steep and unrealistic decarbonisation pathway during the following decade.
Another crucial aspect in the energy governance is a European methane strategy.
The EU should rapidly implement policies that effectively reduce methane emissions, as the gas has a high global warming potential and a short atmospheric lifetime, making it a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Emissions cuts will be achieved mainly by maximising energy efficiency in all sectors and accelerating significantly the increase of renewable energy sources in the final energy consumption.
The whole energy supply system needs to be transformed and rely fully on renewable energy sources. Fossil fuels will be phased out, while wind, solar, geothermal and biomass from waste and residues will deliver almost all primary energy in 2050.
Although action in all sectors is required, the key actors are power generation, transport, buildings and industry, where electrification and phasing out coal should happen rapidly. The Energy Efficiency First principle will remain a key policy instrument, so that energy consumption will decrease despite the rapid growth in renewables.
The energy transition does no longer concern only businesses and industry. The new governance mobilises stakeholders from the grassroots level of citizens and cities up to regional, national and EU level.
Centralised energy production has prevailed as an energy system for a long time, but the recent emergence of local energy initiatives implies that distributed energy production could compete with, or even replace, the old system in the future.
Distributed renewable energy production has become a considerable option in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and the review of the renewable energy directive should ensure that
all individuals have the right to produce, store, resell and use their production of electricity, energy and heat.
These ‘prosumers’ should be duly recognised and encouraged to self-generate by providing secure assistance such as appropriate support schemes, priority access and dispatch to the grid, and a fair contribution to network management costs.
Furthermore, setting up a more favourable regime for small investors and local authorities would allow cities and their inhabitants to invest directly in renewable energy projects, which has been repeatedly proven to increase local acceptance of these projects.
Energy communities and cooperatives are a vital part in reforming the energy sector, offering benefits to the communities and the country as a whole by decreasing energy imports and creating new jobs.
Finally, one of the most important aspirations of the new energy governance is enhancing cooperation of Member States through macro-regional partnerships.
Structured macro-regional cooperation is a catalyst that would favour the completion of a 100% renewable energy system. In the future, there must therefore be strong and highly structured regional cooperation in the areas of Northern Seas, the Baltic Sea, South- East Europe, Central-Western Europe and the Mediterranean basin.
The partnerships will identify renewable energy projects of Energy Union interest, which are projects involving at least two Member States gathered in a cooperation and having a significant cross-border impact, and should be supported by a dedicated financial platform and legislation that facilitates working together at regional level.