Solar and renewables take the stage at European Commission conference on implementing the European Green Deal

Today the European Commission hosted a high-level public conference on implementing the European Green Deal, which centred on the upcoming Climate Law, due to be announced at the end of February. The Climate Law will cement the Commission’s 2050 target for climate neutrality, ensuring that all EU policies are directed towards this goal. Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans opened the conference, discussing the necessity of sticking to the agreed timeline for meeting climate targets and for clarifying the specifics of the Green Deal before COP26 in Glasgow in November this year. 

Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe, was invited to speak on the first panel of the day: Becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050: benefits from the green transition. Hemetsberger said: “The renewables sector is ready to deliver the Commission’s climate targets, and we can reach climate neutrality before 2050 with a 100% renewable energy system. Not only will this be the cleanest means of achieving this goal, but also the lowest cost. In the last twenty years, the cost of solar modules has dropped from €5,000 per kilowatt (kW), to €196 per kW today. This means that European solar parks are currently producing clean energy at a mere €0.04 per kWh, far cheaper than fossil fuels and nuclear.”

The panel included interventions from youth activist Alexander Canal, Secretary-General of Generation Climate Europe; the European Parliament’s Pascal Canfin, Chair of the ENVI Committee; Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe; and Marco Mensink, Director General of CEFIC. The session was moderated by the Commission’s Mauro Petriccione, Director-General, DG CLIMA.

Panellists stressed the importance of an industrial strategy to deliver climate goals, so as to maintain European leadership in manufacturing. Hemetsberger commented: “Becoming the first climate-neutral continent can usher in Europe’s fourth Industrial Revolution. It is a unique opportunity to harvest our leadership in R&I for clean energy technologies, to modernise our economy, and to create new and quality jobs for all EU citizens. Further, a strategic value chain for renewables can also ensure the EU’s security of its energy supply. Today, the EU is very dependant on fossil fuel imports: it is the second-largest consumer of oil worldwide but only the nineteenth producing entity. Moving away from a fossil-fuel-based economy is thus not only environmentally beneficial, but also makes economic and geostrategic sense.”

The final topic that was discussed was the importance of a Just Transition, with countries and regions receiving the support they need. Hemetsberger said: “Solar is primed to ensure that the Green Deal benefits all Europeans, as it is the most job-intensive energy source. A recent study from the Lappeenranta University (LUT) shows that 3.4 million jobs could be created by 2050 in the renewable sector overall, with 1.73 million being in solar. These jobs are highly-skilled and can drive regional development by targeting former coal regions.”

The first communication on the European Climate Law is scheduled for 26 February. The Commission is accepting feedback for the legislation until 6 February. 

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