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The finest and the poorest National Energy and Climate Plans from CEE

Following the proposal for an ambitious Climate Target Plan to reduce EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 55 per cent by 2030, the European Commission has assessed all the Member States’ National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) for 2021-2030.

The assessment shows that the European Union is already on track to surpass its current 2030 GHG emissions reduction target of 40 per cent. The 27 plans give an overview of how Member States are approaching the first phase of their transition towards climate neutrality and where they want to go in the period 2021–2030 across five areas: decarbonisation, energy efficiency, energy security, internal energy market, research and innovation and competitiveness. And countries from Central and Eastern Europe are often mentioned as good examples to follow.

“The energy system will be at the heart of the green transition in Europe,” said Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson. “The National Energy and Climate Plans Assessment that we have presented today show that our Member States are able to surpass our goals. Now we must go to the next level together and develop a more secure and resilient energy system, with more renewable energy generated in the EU.”

The assessment also took into account the context of the post-COVID-19 recovery. NECPs are both a policy tool and an investment agenda that provide business and investors with a forward-looking framework. They constitute a strong basis for Member States to design their green recovery and resilience strategies and deliver on broader European Green Deal objectives from a clean and circular economy to a zero pollution ambition.

For renewable energy, the combined commitment by Member States is estimated to be above the existing renewable energy target of at least 32 per cent. Early estimates suggest that renewable power generation capacity continued to grow by 6.2 per cent in 2019, with a market growth of 33 per cent compared to 2018. Furthermore, several analysts suggest that while negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, the renewables industry and the associated investments are showing relatively strong resilience.

NECPs provide a vast number of mature projects of renewables that can also contribute to the economic recovery. Examples from the CEE region include financial support to prosumers for installation of small-scale power plants in Lithuania, with an expected outcome of 696 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity as from 2024. Or investments to achieve 3.8 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind capacity in Poland. Also, building solar farms and hydrogen infrastructure on former lignite mining sites in Greece.

As far as energy efficiency is concerned, although the ambition level is higher than in the draft NECPs, the cumulative impact of the different NECPs still falls short of the existing energy efficiency target of 32.5 per cent.

The Energy Union has recognised a prominent role of energy efficiency and enshrined the guiding Energy Efficiency First principle into legislation. Still, most final NECPs only set out limited details on the application of this principle despite the fact that energy efficiency plays a key role for the achievement of all targets, and notably the reduction of GHG emissions.

Considering that additional action is in particular necessary in the built environment, it is welcome that NECPs include various energy efficiency measures in the building sector.

Several Member States have good examples to follow, including some from CEE: Bulgaria has set an ambitious target to renovate over 5 per cent of public buildings per year. Latvia intends to renovate 2,000 multi-apartment and 3,000 single-family buildings by 2030. Finally, Romania has put in place specific financing schemes with an energy efficiency investment fund financed by private, national and EU funds.

When it comes to the emission reduction targets, currently range from 0 to -40 per cent in 2030 compared to 2005 to achieve EU-wide minimum reductions in sectors not covered by the EU Emission Trading System (ETS) of 30 per cent compared to 2005. Within the CEE region, Slovakia and Slovenia have set more ambitious national targets in the sectors not covered by the EU ETS.

The planned sectoral national policies are often strongly focused on a broad set of measures addressing transport, which, in emission terms, is the largest non-ETS sector. As it is also an economically important sector, planned measures are relevant for reducing emissions and for the recovery and should mutually support each other. Measures planned in the NECPs help, for example, to boost demand for clean zero and low emission vehicles that reduce CO2 and pollutant emissions in line with ambitious EU standards and ensure a clear pathway towards zero-emission mobility, in line with the priorities for fleet renewal as part of the overall economic recovery and resilience planning. This will be supported by an increased roll-out of recharging and refuelling infrastructure for zero and low emission vehicles and investments for green transition in the transport industry value chain (including batteries and hydrogen fuel cells).

However, for all the climate targets to be reached, we cannot forget the principle of the Just Transition and not leaving anyone behind. The Just Transition Mechanism, and the Just Transition Fund at its core, is specifically designed to address the social and economic impacts of the transition, focusing on the regions, industries and workers who will face the greatest challenges. Indeed, not all Member States have clear phase-out coal policies (especially from the CEE region).

A total of 21 Member States are either already coal-free, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Slovenia and the Czech Republic are still considering coal phase-out while Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia have not planned any phase-out yet.

Finally, the plans also show that, although Member States understood well and described the need for regional cooperation, the full potential of regional cooperation has yet to be seized. A positive example has once more been given by the Baltic States, where Estonia and Latvia are planning a joint auction for offshore wind.

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