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EU plans renewables expansion, says coal needed a bit while longer

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A wind turbine and coal in Lower Saxony, Germany. The EU’s desire to wean itself off Russian hydrocarbons means it is going to need to seek out fossil fuels from other parts of the world to plug supply gaps.

Mia Bucher | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

The European Commission has fleshed out details of a plan to ramp up the EU’s renewable energy capability and reduce its reliance on Russian fossil fuels, at the identical time acknowledging that existing coal facilities could have for use for “longer than initially expected.”

A document outlining the Commission’s goals for the REPowerEU plan was published on Wednesday, highlighting the importance of energy savings, the diversification of energy imports and speeding up what it called “Europe’s clean energy transition.”

In total, it envisages extra investment of 210 billion euros ($220.87 billion) between 2022 and 2027. Relating to renewables’ share within the EU’s energy mix, the Commission has proposed that the present goal of 40% by 2030 must be increased to 45%.

The Commission’s proposals got here on the identical day the governments of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium said they’d aim for a combined goal of at the very least 65 gigawatts of offshore wind capability by 2030. By the center of the century, they’re aiming for 150 GW of capability.

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On the fossil fuel front, the situation is a difficult one. Russia was the most important supplier of each petroleum oils and natural gas to the EU last yr, in keeping with Eurostat.

The EU’s desire to wean itself off Russian hydrocarbons following the latter’s invasion of Ukraine means it is going to need to seek out oil and gas from other parts of the world to plug supply gaps.

The Commission said as much as 1.5 to 2 billion euros of investment could be needed to secure oil supply. To import enough liquefied natural gas and pipeline gas from other sources, an estimated 10 billion euros shall be needed by 2030.

All of the above comes at a time when the EU has said it desires to be carbon neutral by 2050. Within the medium term, it wants net greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by at the very least 55% by 2030, which the EU calls its “Fit for 55” plan.

The Commission said REPowerEU couldn’t work without what it called “a quick implementation of all Fit for 55 proposals and better targets for renewables and energy efficiency.”

On this recent reality, gas consumption within the EU would “reduce at a faster pace, limiting the role of gas as a transitional fuel,” the Commission said.

“Nevertheless, shifting away from Russian fossil fuels may also require targeted investments for security of supply in gas infrastructure and really limited changes to grease infrastructure alongside large-scale investments within the electricity grid and an EU-wide hydrogen backbone,” it added.

“In parallel, among the existing coal capacities may also be used longer than initially expected, with a job for nuclear power and domestic gas resources too,” the Commission said.

During a press conference on Wednesday the EU’s climate chief, Frans Timmermans, admitted that using less natural gas in a transitional phase would mean “you may use coal a bit longer — that has a negative impact in your emissions.”

“But when at the identical time, as we propose, you rapidly speed up the introduction of renewables — solar, wind, biomethane — you then have the alternative movement,” he said.

Timmermans, who’s the European Commission’s executive vice chairman for the European Green Deal, went on to emphasize the importance of finding a middle ground.

“If we will actually do what I say — reduce our energy consumption together with a speedier introduction of renewables — we are going to bring down our emissions even quicker than before,” he said.

“After which, in fact we may have barely higher emissions if people stick a bit longer to coal, but we want to strike the balance in order that, on balance, we don’t increase our emissions — we hopefully even decrease them more.”

Coal has a considerable effect on the environment, with Greenpeace describing it as “the dirtiest, most polluting way of manufacturing energy.”

Elsewhere, the U.S. Energy Information Administration lists a spread of emissions from coal combustion, including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulates and nitrogen oxides.

The European Commission announcement drew criticism from plenty of environmental organizations.

“These plans are purported to fast-track the clean energy transition — however the European Commission’s latest strategy gives with one hand and takes with the opposite,” Eilidh Robb, an anti-fossil fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said.

“So-called REPowerEU incorporates useful and obligatory strides towards renewable solutions but it surely concurrently enables almost 50 fossil fuel infrastructure projects and expansions,” Robb said.

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