This Just the Facts examines the REPowerEU energy plan which was presented by the European Commission on 18 May 2022. Forming the basis of the discussion on energy at the European Council of 30 – 31 May, the plan responds to the disruption to energy markets and seeks to transform the nature of Europe’s energy system.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the European Council met on 10 – 11 March and adopted the Versailles Declaration, which called for the phasing out of imports of Russian fossil fuels and an accelerated diversification of Europe’s energy system. EU government leaders requested the European Commission to develop a plan by the end of May 2022.
The Commission presented the REPowerEU plan on 18 May 2022. The plan is a key pillar in the EU’s response to the disruption which has been caused to energy markets and aims to tackle the climate crisis by transforming Europe’s energy system. REPowerEU aims to mobilise €300 billion in funding and adopts a call to end European dependency on Russian fossil fuels. The plan also forms part of the EU’s wider response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including several sanctions packages.
What is REPowerEU?
Within the overarching goals of strengthening Europe’s climate ambitions, security and economic growth, the REPowerEU plan responds to the current energy situation in four ways:
- energy savings
- the diversification of energy imports
- the acceleration of Europe’s clean energy transition
- smart investment
On energy savings, the European Commission has proposed measures to promote behavioural and structural changes in the medium and long term. These include increasing the Energy Efficiency Directive’s binding targets from 9% – 13% and proposals to update the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.
In an attempt to diversify energy imports, the Commission will consider the development of a ‘joint purchasing mechanism’ similar to the vaccine purchasing programme used for Covid-19, which would negotiate gas deals and contracts on behalf of Member States. The Commission will also consider legislative measures to require diversification of gas supply over time by Member States.
The EU Energy Platform has been backed up by a Task Force which began work on 1 June to negotiate energy supply, integrate capacity, provide support and coordinate objectives outlined in REPowerEU. The EU External Energy Strategy has also been updated which recommits to a just energy transition and aims to build upon international partnerships relating to the energy sector.
On the acceleration of Europe’s clean energy transition, the European Commission has recommended that an amendment be made to the Renewable Energy Directive which would recognise renewable energy as an “overriding public interest.” Member States should establish “go-to” areas for renewable energy development. These areas would have lower environmental risks and therefore allow shortened and simplified permitting processes.
A range of further initiatives have also been outlined, including a dedicated EU Solar Strategy, a Solar Rooftop Initiative and a Biomethane Action Plan.
Building upon the ‘Fit for 55’ package adopted last year, the plan also proposes to increase the 2030 target for renewable energy sources from 40% – 45”.
On smart investment, the European Commission have noted that an additional €210 billion will need to be invested up to 2027. Member States will be able to access funding for infrastructure and projects through the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).
Reaction to the REPowerEU Plan
While the European Parliament has welcomed the REPowerEU plan and has taken a strong stance by calling for a full embargo of Russian fossil fuel imports, at European Council level, following through on these commitments has proven more complicated, with particular opposition from Hungary. This opposition is also linked to the impact the incoming sixth package of EU sanctions would have on supply for Hungary, a Member State which is heavily reliant on Russian oil. Nevertheless, Government leaders at the European Council have come to an agreement which would ban 90% of Russian oil imports by the end of the year.
The plan has also been welcomed by many stakeholders who support increasing renewable energy targets, efficiency and production.
The European Alliance to Save Energy has said that the current plan should “translate into a much more ambitious ‘Fit For 55’ package, with a massive increase of our efforts to save energy and generate energy from renewable sources by the end of the decade,” also noting that “energy efficiency is an essential element of our energy security and decarbonization strategy.”
However, environmental groups such as Greenpeace have critcised REPowerEU for being overly focused on importing fossil fuels from other partners, rather than ending dependence entirely. Friends of the Earth also argued that the proposals risked “locking-in climate wrecking fossil fuels and offers inadequate comfort to people who already cannot afford rising energy bills.”
The Environmental Coalition on Standards, have also pointed towards the practical challenges of implementing the plan and warned that more focus should be placed on encouraging change in individual behaviour.
The European Consumer Organisation, BEUC also said that “national energy regulators must ensure that gas supply to households is prioritised, as lack of energy may bring serious harm to people’s health.”
At the meeting of the European Council which took place between 30 – 31 May, leaders called for the Council of the European Union to “rapidly examine the Commission’s proposals to deliver on the REPowerEU objectives.”
In addition to this, Member States also encouraged the “prompt” use of the EU Energy Platform, promoted the idea of energy savings and have pushed for the further diversification of supply sources and acceleration toward the deployment of renewable energy.