Promoting Renewable Energy 

This Directive on the promotion and use of renewable sources of energy was adopted by Council on 6th of April 2009. This measure is part of the EU’s 2008 Climate Change Package, which covers proposals on emissions trading, carbon capture storage and greenhouse gas emissions.

Aim of the Directive

The Directive aims to promote energy from renewable sources. Renewable sources of energy are defined as renewable non-fossil sources such as wind, solar, or hydropower. Other forms of renewable energy include biomass, landfill gas, sewage treatment plant gas and biogases.

The main objective is to ensure that 20% of the EU’s energy consumption comes from renewable sources by 2020. This 20% target will be binding, and there will be a further binding obligation on Member States to ensure that a minimum 10% of transport fuel consumption comes from renewable sources by 2020.

To achieve these objectives the Directive establishes a legal framework laying down rules relating to:

• National renewable energy action plans
• Joint projects and support schemes
• Electricity grid access
• Sustainability criteria for bio-fuels and bio-liquids

Action Plans

Member States are required to ensure that mandatory national targets are achieved. These national targets are laid down in the Directive’s Annex. In order to achieve these targets, Member States must establish National Renewable Energy Action plans, detailing the measures that will be adopted. The Commission will provide a template for these Action Plans by 30 June 2009. Member States must finalise and notify the Commission of their Action Plans by 30 June 2010. Failure to meet Action Plan targets will result in the enforced revision of the Action Plan.

Member States are also required to define technical specifications with regards to renewable energy equipment and systems. The use of European standards, such as eco-labels, is mandatory where they exist. Member States are required to have incorporated rules on the minimum levels of energy produced from renewable sources into their building regulations and codes by 31 December 2014. New public buildings and public buildings subject to extensive renovation must be compliant by 2012.

Joint Projects

 Member States are allowed to cooperate bilaterally or multilaterally on joint projects for the production of electricity and for heating and cooling from renewable energy sources. Member States are also permitted to set-up joint projects with third countries.  Joint support schemes can be made on a voluntary basis between Member States to coordinate their national support schemes.  Essentially, this means sharing the renewable energy produced from a joint project. The Commission must be notified of all projects and support schemes. 

Electricity Grid Access and Guarantees of Origin

Member States must ensure that system operators and distributors guarantee the transmission and distribution of electricity produced from renewable energy sources. Member States will also provide either guaranteed or priority grid access to electricity produced from renewable resources. Further measures are required to ensure that electricity from renewable sources is not curtailed, through discriminatory prices or restricted supply. System operators and distributors will be required to provide information and ensure transparency of rules.  

The Directive introduces a new system of Guarantees of Origin. These provide customers and consumers with proof that a certain amount or share of the energy sold to them is produced from renewable sources. These will be available for electricity, heating and cooling. The standard size of a Guarantee of Origin will be 1MWh. National bodies will oversee and supervise the issue, transfer and cancellation of Guarantees of Origin.

Sustainability Criteria for Bio-Fuels and Bio-Liquids

The Directive also introduces sustainability criteria for bio-fuels and bio-liquids. Energy from bio-fuels and bio-liquids will only be counted as renewable if it can fulfil certain sustainability criteria set out in the Directive. For example bio-fuels and bio-liquids cannot be made from raw materials obtained from protected natural areas, wetlands or primary forests. The proposal also contains methodology for calculating the greenhouse gas (GHG) impact of bio-fuels and other bio-liquids.

Reporting Obligations

The first Commission report will be published no later than 2012. The Commission shall base its reporting on GHG savings based on Member States’ statistics. Electricity and hydrogen as renewable sources of energy for vehicles may be taken into account by the Commission by 2011. The Commission will also be responsible for the monitoring of bio-fuels and bio-liquids consumed in the EU, including impacts as a result of displacement, land-use in the EU and in third countries. It will also monitor commodity price changes associated with food security.

Member States must report to the Commission every two years by 2011 and every 2 years after that. The last report will be submitted by 31st December 2021.

Entry into Force

The measure, which will also apply to the European Economic Area (EEA), amends and repeals Directives 2001/77EC on the promotion of renewable energy sources  and 2003/20/EC on biofuels. Member States must implement this Directive by 31 March 2010.