The UK is set for a showdown with Europe over the proposed introduction of a new set of legally binding renewable energy targets beyond 2020.
The European Commission has today announced plans to negotiate a new package of statutory goals to increase the renewable energy contribution to the region's energy mix.
But the UK's Energy Secretary Ed Davey has already warned he wanted to see a focus on cutting carbon emissions rather than repeating the existing renewable energy targets that expire at the end of the decade.
"We should be moving towards outcome targets," Cabinet Minister Davey told a Reuters' Global Energy and Environment Summit last month. "Carbon emissions should be the key target."
When asked whether the UK would support another target for renewable energy once the current EU renewable energy target expires at the end of the decade, he said his preference would be for “outcome targets”, such as a new goal on carbon cutting, rather than setting another target for renewables.
"While we think the renewables target for 2020 is a very good target and we believe we are on track to meet it, in terms of another renewables target, we have to think about what we are trying to achieve here," he said.
However, the European Commission today said new targets were needed for 2030 to provide regulatory certainty to support investor confidence.
And the Commission stressed that it is crucial to identify 2030 milestones as soon as possible to enable renewable energy producers to be increasingly competitive players in the European energy market.
Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger stated: "We should continue to develop renewable energy and promote innovative solutions. We have to do it in a cost-efficient way. This means: producing wind and solar power where it makes economic sense and trading it within Europe, as we do for other products and services."
In the Communication adopted today, the Commission is calling for a more coordinated European approach in the establishment and reform of support schemes and an increased use of renewable energy trading among Member States.
For the time beyond 2020, the Communication acknowledges that without a suitable framework renewable energy growth will slump.
Such a framework has to allow for more innovation and bring down cost to make renewables a promising sector of investment for growth. It therefore proposes to start the process on preparing future policy options and milestones for 2030.
It identifies three options beyond business as usual:
* New goals for GHG (Greenhouse gas emissions) but no goals for renewable energy. ETS would be the main instrument to cut down on CO2 emissions.
* Three national targets: Renewable energy, energy efficiency and GHG.
* EU wide targets: Renewable energy, energy efficiency and GHG goals.
Today's Communication also indicated four main areas where efforts should be stepped up until 2020 to achieve Europe's renewable energy goals whilst being cost-efficient:
* Energy market: The Commission insists on the need to complete the internal energy market and acknowledges the need to address power generation investment incentives in the market to allow for a smooth integration of renewables into the market.
* Support schemes: The Commission favours schemes that encourage cost reductions and avoid over compensation. It also calls for support schemes to be more consistent across Member States in order to avoid unnecessary barriers.
* Cooperation mechanisms. The Commission encourages an increased use of the cooperation mechanisms contained in the Renewable Energy Directive. The cooperation mechanisms allow Member States to achieve their national binding targets by trading renewable energy between them. This means that one Member States buys for example wind or solar energy from another Member State or from a third country outside the EU. This can be cheaper than producing solar or wind in the home country.
* Energy cooperation in the Mediterranean. The Commission suggests improvements to the regulatory framework and stresses that an integrated regional market in the Maghreb would facilitate large-scale investments in the region and enable Europe to import renewable electricity.