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This is how the EU plans to end its reliance on Russian energy

Renewable Energy.

The EU plans to increase its renewable energy targets. Image: Unsplash/Federico Beccarii

Charlotte Edmond
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  • The EU says it needs an additional €210 billion ($220 billion) of investment to transform its energy system.
  • This would allow a massive increase in the speed and scale of low-carbon energy deployment.
  • The bloc is also targeting energy efficiency savings, as well as investing in oil and gas infrastructure to enable new supply routes.

The EU has laid out a “massive scaling up and speeding up” of renewable energy as part of a package of measures to accelerate its independence from Russian fossil fuels and respond to the climate crisis.

The bloc says it needs €210 billion ($220 billion) of additional investment between now and 2027 to meet its aims.

The plan includes amendments to its flagship environmental package, the EU Green Deal, and covers three main areas: energy saving, diversification of supply and an accelerated transition to renewables.

Within the EU, Slovakia is most dependent on Russian energy (oil and petroleum) imports.
Within the EU, Slovakia is most dependent on Russian energy (oil and petroleum) imports. Image: Statista

Scaling up low-carbon energy sources

The EU plans to increase its renewable energy targets, aiming for renewables to make up 45% of its overall energy mix by 2030, up from 40% under previous plans.

This will involve doubling solar photovoltaic capacity by 2025, putting it at 600 gigawatts by 2030. The EU had solar photovoltaic capacity of around 165 gigawatts in 2021.

The bloc will also look to boost its wind power capacity as part of the plan.

Chart showing leading countries in installed renewable energy capacity worldwide in 2021.
Germany has the most renewable energy capacity in Europe. Image: Statista

However, a short-term burst of coal and nuclear fuel use is needed to bridge the gap until enough solar and wind energy are available. The EU is expected to burn around 5% more coal – one of the most polluting fuels – for power generation in the next five to 10 years as the region curbs its Russian oil and gas imports. Officials insist the bloc will still hit its carbon reduction targets.

The European Commission also wants 10 million tonnes of domestic hydrogen production capacity by 2030, alongside an additional 10 million tonnes of imports. It hopes to use this to replace gas, coal and oil in hard-to-decarbonize industries and transport sectors. It is setting aside €200 million ($210 million) for research in this area.


Saving energy

As part of the package of measures, the Commission also wants significant increases in energy efficiency. It is targeting a 13% reduction in energy use against 2020 levels, a more ambitious target than its previous 9%.

Member states are expected to use fiscal measures to encourage greater efficiency and energy savings, such as reduced tax on efficient heating systems. The Commission has also outlined a series of recommended behavioural changes, such as turning down heating and greater use of public transport, which it says could help cut oil and gas demand by 5%.

Estimated value of energy imports from Russia to the European Union and the United Kingdom from 2006 to 2021.
Estimated value of energy imports from Russia to the European Union and the United Kingdom from 2006 to 2021. Image: Statista

Diversifying supply

The EU has been working to secure non-Russian supplies of oil and gas. In 2021, Russia supplied around 40% of the gas the EU used and just over a quarter of its imported crude oil.

Investments of €10 billion ($10.6 billion) by 2030 will be needed to build infrastructure such as pipelines and terminals that will be necessary to remap the EU’s liquefied natural gas and oil supply.

This has attracted criticism from some campaigners, who would rather the EU made a cleaner cut from fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency says that no new investments can be made in oil, gas and coal infrastructure worldwide if we are to limit global warming to the targeted 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

A recent poll of EU member states found widespread support of the EU reducing its dependency on Russian oil and gas as soon as possible to support Ukraine.

The European Commission says that the recent interruptions of gas supply to Bulgaria and Poland demonstrate the urgency of addressing the lack of reliability around Russian shipments. Cutting fuel imports from Russia could save almost €100 billion ($106 billion) a year, it says.

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World Economic Forum

May 21, 2024

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