Source: ENTSO-E
Dossier
12 Oct 2021, 08:21

Energy transition in EU takes centre stage in quest for climate neutrality

EU
The transition to a climate-friendly economy is not a purely national challenge. This is nowhere more apparent than in the EU, where the European Commission has introduced the “Green Deal” growth strategy as the centrepiece of all policy plans. However, cooperation extends to other countries in Europe as well. On a continent where small states share multiple borders, their energy systems are becoming increasingly interlinked, and thus national actions (or the lack thereof) have implications well beyond country borders. This dossier compiles a series of factsheets and articles, as well as a comprehensive expert database to help disentangle the complex stories of energy transition and climate action in Europe and beyond. [UPDATES news]

The EU has set out to drive the energy transition. With the presentation of the new European Commission’s Green Deal policy programme in 2019, climate action has become a number one priority for the union, with the goal of becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. This drive has recently prompted other major regional blocs across the globe to show more willingness to take decisive action as well. EU member states' national energy systems are becoming increasingly interlinked, and thus national decisions have implications well beyond their own borders. Today, it is more important than ever to look at the full picture and understand the energy transition and climate action as regional and global endeavours.

News

14 Sep 2021: Merkel successor must get EU states on board for ambitious climate package – former commissioner – The EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ package of climate and energy legislation will be “incredibly difficult” to get through member states and German chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor must be willing to spend time, energy and diplomatic capital, says Connie Hedegaard, first European commissioner for climate action between 2010 and 2014.

26 July 2021: New cable between Germany and UK advances Europe’s integrated power system – One of the first project financed interconnectors in Europe is due to be built between Germany and the UK by 2023-24. The opening up of the interconnector market to private investment has been promoted by both the UK and German governments in the drive towards greater grid integration. They argue – and are joined by the European grid regulators – that to keep a climate neutral Europe running securely on intermittent renewable power sources, will require more interconnected energy systems. But although hailed as more reliable and cheaper than a 100 percent domestic electricity supply, relying on one’s neighbours for green power is a hard pill to swallow for some countries. 

16 July 2021: New EU climate proposals to accelerate German coal exit and industry transformation – think tanks – The EU’s proposed new climate and energy legislation will effectively bring forward Germany’s coal exit date to 2030, and rising prices in the Emissions Trading System (ETS) mean coal will become unprofitable in most of Europe, said think tanks Agora Energiewende and Institute for Applied Ecology.

15 July 2021: German reactions to EU “Fit for 55” plans to overhaul climate and energy laws – The German environment ministry has called new EU proposals to reform the bloc's climate and energy policy “nothing less than a new industrial revolution in the European Union.” Clean Energy Wire collects first reactions from German stakeholders.

Research tools

Clean Energy Wire's climate & energy expert database is being extended beyond Germany to become Europe’s largest open-source list of contacts for energy transition journalists. Find the database here.

The European Union is conducting a major revamp of its climate and energy legislation to make the EU “Fit for 55” – its new 55 percent greenhouse gas reduction target for 2030. The European Commission presented its package of proposals in July 2021, unloading hundreds of pages on the public, which member states and the European Parliament will fight over in the coming months, if not years. The factsheet Covering the EU’s “Fit for 55” package of climate and energy laws provides first expert contacts to help kickstart your coverage.

What’s next in Europe? Mark your calendars – or rather let us do it for you. Europe is complicated and even journalists from EU member states sometimes struggle to understand how climate and energy policy is made and when the institutions take key decisions. This timeline flags key European energy and climate reporting events and developments, and includes concise background information needed to jump-start your coverage. Find the Timeline of European climate and energy policy here.

Web events

Clean Energy Wire is regularly hosting online events on European energy transition issues. Join for free and get inside views and best practices from policymakers, industry representatives, researchers or journalists. The events provide input on hot topics like hydrogen, the carbon border tax or climate target negotiations. Find more info on our next (and past) events here.

The basics

Who sets the targets? Expert Q&A on European energy and climate policy - Energy targets and climate policies in European countries have never been set at national level only. On a continent where small states share multiple borders, their energy systems are becoming increasingly interlinked, and thus national actions (or the lack thereof) have implications well beyond country borders. However, it can be difficult to understand the complicated interplay of decision-making among countries on the continent. Clean Energy Wire has asked experts to explain the key elements of European climate and energy policy for this Q&A – a well of information and interview contacts for journalists' research.

Diving deeper

EU’s Farm to Fork strategy impacts climate, productivity, and trade - The European Green Deal with its landmark Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies aims to achieve nothing less than a complete overhaul of the EU's food system to reach the bloc's 2050 target of climate neutrality. The new sustainable system is to mitigate climate change, reverse biodiversity loss, and feed Europeans in a healthy way. Strict reductions in fertiliser use and an increase in organically farmed area are part of the EU's plan. It also wants to use its power as a main agrifood market to enforce sustainability standards in trading partners. While climate and environment activists rejoice in the strategy's progressive objectives, many farmers are less than happy. Some even predict a devastating loss in productivity that will deal a blow to food security in Europe and beyond. This factsheet explains what the Farm to Fork strategy is about, what legislation is planned in its wake, what it has to do with the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and what impact it may have on climate, productivity and trade.

Emission reduction panacea or recipe for trade war? The EU's carbon border tax debate - The European Union is inching towards introducing a carbon border tax, an instrument that has been hailed as a stimulus for climate action but also branded as a way to spark new trade disputes between the bloc and its trading partners. This factsheet explains the design options for a European carbon border levy, outlines the potential problems associated with this instrument and sums up the opinion of the stakeholders in and beyond Europe.

What a higher EU 2030 climate target means for member states like GermanyEU leaders have proposed to increase the bloc’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to "at least 55 percent". The impact on member states will vary widely. While German industry warns that raising it according to the EU’s proposal would pose a great challenge, environmental organisations are calling for a higher target to meet the Paris climate agreement goals. Experts say that the Commission proposal would very likely require the bloc to phase out coal almost entirely by 2030.

Understanding the European Union’s Emissions Trading System - One of the world's biggest carbon markets has for years struggled with structural deficiencies, including an oversupply of permits. Against this backdrop, the German government, many other EU member states, and the European Commission have successfully pushed for a reform of the tool that they hope will make greenhouse gas emissions more costly. This factsheet explains the ETS's purpose, its initial struggles, and the reforms made to the system.

National climate measures and European emission trading: Assessing the ‘waterbed effect’ - When countries like the Netherlands, the UK or Germany attempt to lower greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation and industry, they are regularly faced with the same criticism: Saving emissions that are covered by the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) in one country only leads to the same amount of CO2 being emitted somewhere else, not achieving an overall reduction because of the ETS cap. This phenomenon, dubbed the "waterbed effect", has been addressed by the latest ETS reform to prevent it in the future. As for the past, this factsheet looks at the evidence and simulations that can help assess the impact on emissions of Germany's renewables expansion and the mothballing of the country's lignite power stations.

Germany’s climate obligations under the EU Effort Sharing scheme - Germany is often perceived as a country with stringent national climate ambitions, but many of these rules and goals are actually prescribed by the European Union’s greenhouse gas emission reduction plans. This factsheet explains what the EU’s climate action targets in the non-ETS sectors entail, what flexibilities countries have in achieving them and how the bloc as a whole and Germany in particular are faring when it comes to reaching their emission targets and what non-compliance may cost.

Gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 links Germany to Russia, but splits Europe - The construction of the controversial natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 has been delayed for months and completion is increasingly at risk after the US imposed sanctions on involved companies and threatened further steps. The pipeline under the Baltic Sea has been the subject of heated debate for years. The project would allow additional Russian gas to flow directly to Germany. Proponents argue the pipeline is a commercial investment that is key to Europe's supply security, while opponents criticise Nord Stream 2 on environmental, geopolitical, and security grounds.

Interconnectors & blockages – German grid at odds with EU power market - The European Commission is pushing for a single European energy market. That demands a better-connected system, which could result in cheaper power and a more stable grid. At the centre of Europe, neighbouring eight other EU states, Germany’s role is key. But its power grid and cross-border connections aren’t up to the job – yet – meaning parts of the common market are disintegrating instead of becoming more connected.

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