DIY solar revolution set to arrive in EU after MEPs agree directive

14 Jun 2018

Image: Elena Elisseeva/Shutterstock

EU MEPs worked long into the night to hash out a series of agreements that could define the union’s future in terms of its tackling of climate change.

While many Europeans were asleep, MEPs managed to finalise a set of agreements among EU nations that very well may define their future and place in history in tackling the obvious effects of climate change.

Finalised close to 4.30am Brussels time, the Renewable Energy Directive was announced by MEP Seán Kelly this morning (14 June) on Twitter, bringing an end to some very lengthy discussions.

While the full details of the directive are not yet published, Euractiv has reported that the new regulatory framework includes a binding renewable energy target of 32pc by the year 2030, with an upward revision clause applicable by 2023.

Speaking this morning on his website, Kelly – who is leader of the Fine Gael delegation in the European Parliament – said the directive was badly needed.

“With the Paris Agreement in place, combined with the evidence that has since been presented about the falling costs of renewable energy, it is clear that the Council and Commission’s proposed 27pc target was outdated,” he said.

But what else do we know about the directive, and how much will it affect those of us in Europe?

The DIY solar revolution is about to arrive

One of the biggest talking points of the debate among MEPs was the ‘self-consumption’ of renewable energy, ie being able to produce renewable energy off-grid for your own use and particularly using solar panels.

The new directive between the European Parliament and European governments establishes the right of European citizens, local authorities, small businesses and cooperatives to produce, consume, store and sell their own renewable energy at a capacity of no more than 25kW.

According to Greenpeace, this will allow for the spread of renewable energy generation across the continent “without being subject to punitive taxes or excessive red tape”.

Examples include it being necessary in Romania to set up a new company in order to sell back to the grid, while in Spain a ‘sun tax’ makes small-scale renewable energy production prohibitively expensive.

Greenpeace’s EU energy policy adviser, Sebastian Mang, said of the news: “It gives people and communities greater control over their energy use, empowering them to accelerate the development of renewable energy and challenge energy giants across the continent.”

Palm oil to be phased out by 2030

News that palm oil is to be phased out by the end of the next decade will be welcome news to environmental activists who have been calling on major brands to end their association with palm oil producers.

Their claims, backed by considerable evidence, showed that huge swathes of forests in Malaysia and Indonesia have been levelled to make way for palm oil, forcing a number of species to the point of extinction.

However, Malaysia in particular is likely to fiercely criticise the decision as it heavily relies on palm oil for exports, worth approximately $20bn a year.

Also, as part of the deal, so-called first-generation biofuels including ethanol – used in industry and some vehicles – will be frozen at the levels of production seen in the EU by 2020.

Not everything went smoothly

While the Renewable Energy Directive secured an agreement, the same couldn’t be said for the Energy Efficiency Directive, which collapsed yesterday evening (13 June).

The point of contention came from the European Parliament saying it was adamant that it would not go below a target of 32.5pc for energy savings by 2030, in addition to 0.84pc on annual savings.

However, Bulgaria – currently holding the presidency of the European Council – said it simply couldn’t meet these targets, forcing the collapse of the talks.

With Bulgaria set to hand over the keys to the presidency to Austria on 1 July, there are fears the talks could drag on for months.

However, there is still hope that ambassadors could return to the table once again and complete a deal before the final round of talks next week.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic