Source: ENTSO-E
27 Apr 2023, 10:21

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

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 and background]

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.


17 April 2023: Climate council warns Germany against 'pushing off' responsibility to Europe – Germany must increase efforts to reduce emissions even as the European Union introduces stricter climate legislation, said Brigitte Knopf, deputy chairwoman of the country’s Council of Experts on Climate Change.

30 Mar 2023: Deal to raise renewables target “huge success” for EU – German econ min – German economy minister Robert Habeck has welcomed a deal among EU institutions to raise the target share of renewable energy in the bloc’s overall energy consumption. “Today's decisions are a huge success for the European Union,” said Habeck

17 Mar 2023: Germany welcomes EU plans to lead global shift to climate-neutral industry – German government officials have welcomed proposals by the European Commission to boost net-zero industries and the competitiveness of European companies in an effort to keep up with other regions of the world, such as the U.S. and China. Parliamentary state secretary Franziska Brantner said a proposed legislation to ensure that the EU has access to critical raw materials it needs for climate neutral transformation is “very important and urgently needed.” The Commission also presented the Net-Zero Industry Act, which stipulates that at least 40 percent of key technologies like solar PV and wind power have to be manufactured domestically by 2030. The package is a response to the industry support given under the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), but also to subsidies and regulation in other countries, such as China.

6 Mar 2023: German Science Academy urges speed and cooperation in Europe’s energy transition – Researchers at the German National Academy of Sciences have called on German and European governments to speed up efforts to transform the energy system to help reach climate targets, and to increase cooperation instead of resorting to protectionism.

3 Mar 2023: EU delays crucial 2035 car emissions vote after German insistence on combustion engines ccc By insisting on a future for new combustion engine vehicles after 2035, German finance minister Christian Lindner has upended hopes for those aiming to agree an effective ban for the technology at a vote on EU car emissions initially scheduled for 7 March.

3 Mar 2023: German government plans extensive LNG infrastructure build-up to ensure security of European supply – With a significant “safety buffer” of new liquefied natural gas (LNG) import capacity, the German government aims to ensure that the country and neighbouring states will receive sufficient supply of natural gas in the coming years, says a report from the economy ministry.

1 Mar 2023: “Catastrophic” winter drought in France bodes ill for Europe’s power production in 2023 – A severe winter drought in France is causing worries that the country’s energy production could be impacted throughout the year, compounding an already tense energy supply situation across Europe.

2 Feb 2023: EU green industry plan an ‘important proposal’ to improve investment conditions – chancellor Scholz – German government officials and industry associations have welcomed the EU’s proposal for a “Green Deal Industrial Plan,” intended to enhance the competitiveness of Europe's industry on the path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Research tools

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.

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.

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

Adaptation: Ill-equipped Europe braces for impact of rising temperatures - Europe is the continent experiencing the fastest rise in temperatures because of climate change, and the impacts are felt everywhere across the region: Deadly summer heatwaves and floods, devastating droughts, and snow-free ski slopes in winter. Like other world regions, Europe must make up for lost time, and act now to adapt to rising temperatures. In many respects, the EU is an adaptation pioneer, but the challenges are huge, the targets keep moving, and many plans remain non-binding “soft” policies. Progress is being made as the 27 nation bloc has recently stepped up coordination of member states’ responses, but it needs to be faster and more homogenous across the EU if all of its citizens are to be protected against the worst impacts of a warming world. This dossier is a collection of analyses, factsheets, and case studies. Also read the factsheets Q&A - Why Europe needs to adapt to the impacts of climate change and Europe steps up climate change adaptation in wake of floods and heatwaves

Q&A: Making the EU’s electricity market fit for a climate-neutral future - For years, the European Commission has hailed the electricity market design for enabling the large-scale integration of renewable energy, increasing security of supply and helping to lower wholesale prices. However, the system was pushed to its limit in the European energy crisis, when Russia curtailed fossil fuel supply to Europe in the wake of its war on Ukraine. In a bid to protect consumers from pricey electricity bills, secure supply and help accelerate the transition to climate neutrality, the Commission has proposed changes to the market's design. Far from the comprehensive reform promised at the height of the crisis, the Commission wants to encourage the use of more long-term contracts to avoid price swings in the future. This factsheet provides an overview of the current debate about reforms to the European electricity market, which proposals are being discussed, and what individual EU member states would like to see achieved

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.

The EU’s Carbon Border Tax — panacea or recipe for trade war? - 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 Systems (EU ETS) - 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.

Polls reveal citizens' support for climate action and energy transition - The German public increasingly puts climate action at the top of its policy priorities and remains strongly in support of the transition to a low-carbon and nuclear-free economy. The picture across Europe is more diverse, although climate is becoming a top issue almost everywhere. Russia’s war against Ukraine has caused a shift on some key energy questions and it remains to be seen whether these are temporary. This factsheet provides a summary of major polls measuring citizens' views on climate action and their acceptance of the energy transition.

All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)” . They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.


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