Sweden, the best kid in the class, might be doing well but that doesn’t mean every country in the EU passes the renewable energy-test.
The Northern countries of Europe are the best kids in the class on multiple subjects. They are some of the healthiest and the happiest countries in the world. Likewise, on the subject of renewable energy they tend to score straight A’s. Sweden, Denmark and Finland had already achieved their renewable energy targets for 2020 back in 2016, new Eurostat numbers show. But can the rest of the class keep up with these top students?
By 2020, the share of energy from renewable sources, for example wind, solar energy and bio fuels, should be 20% for the whole of the European Union. And by 2030, this share has to increase to 32.5%.
In 2016, eleven of the 28 EU countries had already reached their target, the statistics show. One reason why, for example, Sweden is ahead, is because they have a quantity-driven support instrument, Merethe Dotterud Leiren, senior researcher at the Center for International Climate Research CICERO explains. This is a green certificate scheme. Leiren explains: “The government sets the target for how much renewable energy should be produced by 2020. Every producer of additional renewable power has the right to sell one certificate per megawatt-hour that they produce. Those that sell power on the market is obliged to buy a quota (a percentage) of a certificate for every megawatt-hour that they sell.”
The Swedish Energy Agency also explain their countries green certificate scheme. These green certificates mean that electricity producers receive one electricity certificate unit from the Swedish state for each megawatt-hour of electricity they produce using renewable energy sources, as is explained by the Swedish Energy Agency. The electricity producers can then sell their certificates for extra revenue on their renewable electricity. The parties buying these certificates are companies or businesses that have to reach a certain quota, they have to buy a certain number of certificates that corresponds with their electricity sales or use. “This has been working very well in Sweden since it was implemented in 2003,” Leiren says.
But Sweden being such a good example for the rest of the EU-classroom, does not mean that other countries don’t still struggle with their renewable energy policy. A country that still has a long way to go is Poland. Poland still sees 90% of its electricity come from coal. The reasons for that are very clear, according to Rebecca Bertram, senior policy advisor at the German think-tank the Heinrich Böll Foundation. “There is a very strong interest in many parts of the population to keep it as it is, because they wanted to keep their coal-related jobs. But now, that is breaking down slowly.”
An interesting point in this warming-up to renewables in Poland is the problem of smog. “I read some statistics recently that showed that 16 out of 20 of the dirtiest cities in Europe are in Poland,” Bertram continues. “I think you can expect some change in Poland. Because when there’s a health issue, if your air is bad, and you can trace it back to coal, you might want to push the government to think about what their strategy is to keep their cities clean and their population healthy.”
Although some of the EU countries are already finding it difficult to reach their targets, Bertram wants to see a more ambitious goal by the EU. “I think the renewable energy goal of 32.5% is below what we can actually achieve,” she says. “It’s lacking ambition in a time where these technologies have become so cost-competitive with fossil fuel energies.”