Clean Energy Package for all Europeans - year one: where do we stand on renewables?

By: Giorgia Concas, Senior Policy Advisor and Christophe Arnaud, Policy Advisor

In November 2016 the EU Commission published its Clean Energy Package proposals. 

The two co-legislators who review the package - the EU Parliament and the Council of the European Union representing the governments of the Member States - are now finalising their internal discussions on electricity market rules and are expected to start working on a common agreement for renewable energy provisions early next year.

One year after the start of the negotiations, what's in it for solar?

Starting with the most political issue - the renewable energy target - the 35% number suggested by the EU Parliament's leader, socialist Jose Blanco Lopez, as a response to the position of SolarPower Europe, is gaining traction: IRENA unveiled its study findings on RES potential in Europe showing that committing to a 33-34% target would bring more net benefits than costs to the EU; on Monday this week, a letter sent to policy makers by a group of major utility companies, including SolarPower Europe members Enel, Iberdrola and EDP, states that a 35% RES target by 2030 is largely within reach; finally, the SolarPower Europe and EY "Jobs study", which was presented early this week in the European Parliament, points out that PV jobs in Europe could more than triple compared to 2016, boosted by a 35% RES target. The main drawback - Member States still seem determined to ignore the target discussion until the Parliament finalises its proposal.

Another key issue is the advent of a "consumer powered" energy transition. While the EU Parliament seems determined to open up the possibility to generate, store and consume on-site electricity from renewable sources to as many consumer groups and configurations as possible, some Member States have tried to make the EU framework less prescriptive with few safeguards for energy prosumers. Heated discussions both in Parliament and in Council remain on the financial treatment - both in terms of savings on the electricity bills and in terms of earnings from the excess electricity injected into the grid. 

Finally, negotiations on the crucial reform of the electricity market design are running at full speed.

While positive provisions are being tabled to unlock the flexibility of electricity markets, a crucial debate relates to the provisions for small-scale renewable installations on balancing responsibilities and priority dispatch. 

The situation remains worrying, as the EU Parliament leaders proposal and Council position endanger the ability of small players to contribute to the energy transition in the near future by exposing them to disproportionate costs and administrative burdens. On Thursday 9 November, several key players in the European energy sector, led by SolarPower Europe, have launched a campaign to alert policy makers to the dangers of removing priority dispatch and exposing small players to balancing responsibilities. Expect plenty of updates on our "Small is Beautiful" Campaign.

Capacity mechanisms are also in the spotlight, as a majority of Member States try to ease the conditions under which governments should be allowed to grant capacity payments to any form of electricity generation. Luckily - for now- the European Parliament has supported the proposal of the European Commission, promoting the need for an EU adequacy assessment and the inclusion of a carbon criterion, ensuring that public subsidies will no longer be granted to the most polluting power plants. A wide coalition of energy stakeholders have been supporting the latter provision through the 'Make Power Clean' campaign, including SolarPower Europe, insisting on the benefits of such criterion for renewables integration, and climate mitigation.