The Energy Community is an international organisation and platform for cooperation on energy and climate issues between the European Union and nine countries in its neighbourhood, the so-called Contracting Parties – the six Western Balkan countries, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Under the 2020 Sofia Declaration on the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans and the commitments made at the 2021 Eastern Partnership meeting on environment and climate change, the Contracting Parties expressed their willingness to work together towards a 2050 climate-neutral continent. The adoption of ambitious 2030 targets for renewables, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction is essential to deliver on the long-term climate and energy policy objectives by proving regulatory stability and predictability of national efforts. This is necessary to stimulate investment into a sustainable energy future.
The negotiations on 2030 energy and climate targets for the Energy Community started in April 2022. In preparation for these negotiations, the European Commission extended the EU’s energy and climate modelling capacity to include the Energy Community and its nine Contracting Parties. This support included the collection of extensive data, as well as the development of a harmonised methodology and various scenarios important for target setting. The results of these efforts were shared with the Contracting Parties and served as input for the negotiations.
Ministers responsible for energy and climate concluded these negotiations at the Informal Energy Community Ministerial Council on 8 July in Baden, Austria. The Contracting Parties reached a high level of ambition on targets for energy efficiency, putting a cap on the amount of final and primary energy consumption, boosting renewables and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, in line with the commitment to achieve climate neutrality of their economies by 2050. The targets are expected to be formally adopted at the Energy Community Ministerial Council in December 2022.
While the adoption of the targets will be a decisive step forward, meeting the 2050 ambitions will require having an adequate policy framework in place. Already in November 2021, the Ministerial Council of the Energy Community adopted the Clean Energy for all Europeans package. The package covers legislation in the area of energy efficiency, renewables, governance and electricity market design. The Council also adopted the Decarbonisation Roadmap for the Contracting Parties of the Energy Community, a political document outlining the sequence of adoption, transposition and implementation of decarbonisation-focused rules in order to put the Contracting Parties on a path towards achieving 2030 and mid-century decarbonisation targets.
Renewable energy is at the core of tackling GHG emissions and transitioning to a sustainable energy system. Yet, the Contracting Parties of the Energy Community continue to punch below their weight when it comes to the uptake of energy from renewable sources. In November 2021, together with other elements from the Clean Energy Package, the Ministerial Council of the Energy Community adopted the Directive (EU) 2018/2001 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (so-called REDII). Effective de-risking mechanisms such as reliable support schemes for renewables and liquid day-ahead and intraday markets are needed to mitigate the high capital costs in the region and boost investments in renewables.
The same can be said for energy efficiency. The energy-saving potential in the Contracting Parties remains high. Without treating energy efficiency as the “first fuel”, the Contracting Parties will struggle to meet climate objectives and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The new Directive 2018/2002 amending the 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive sets stronger measures for buildings renovation and savings in end-use sectors, as well as rules on metering and billing of thermal energy, especially with respect to multi-apartment and multi-purpose buildings.
While the 2030 targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are new for the Energy Community, the energy efficiency and renewable energy targets and measures have been part of the Energy Community process for more than ten years and some success stories can be reported already now. The Energy Community as a whole and eight of its Contracting Parties achieved the 2020 target for energy efficiency. Statistics confirmed that three Contracting Parties reached their 2020 target for renewables and three others came close. The complete picture will be revealed with the release of 2021 statistics, expected in the course of 2023.
With the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis in Europe, the focus on the clean energy transition has accelerated but so has the real possibility of a U-turn to coal. The Energy Community process to adopt the 2030 energy and climate targets and work at a national level to transpose the Clean Energy Package by the end of 2022 deadline reflects the Contracting Parties’ determination to advance the decarbonisation process. Besides the Ministerial Council, the Energy Community’s working bodies are working at full speed to support coordinated decarbonisation actions within the Energy Community and mobilise technical and financial support from international financial institutions to ensure that the energy transition in the Energy Community succeeds for the benefit of citizens, consumers and businesses. Without belittling the challenges ahead, I remain optimistic.