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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Speech by Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete at the European Renewable Energies Federation Annual Reception

Brussels, 26 January 2016

President Seimanidis,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Friends and Colleagues,

Let me start by saying how delighted I am to be here at your New Year reception.

Tonight is both an opportunity to look back at 2015, a defining year for renewables and for our climate. And it is also a chance to look forward at what we need in 2016 to capitalise on that momentum.

For me it is simple: we have now entered the era of renewable energy. If there was ever any doubt about that, the Paris Agreement at COP21 in December made sure that renewables are here to stay.

So allow me to start with a few words on the deal that was struck in Paris and the opportunities it presents for renewables.

For the first time in history, the Paris agreement sets us on a path to limit the global temperature rise below the danger zone:

  • it has a long term emission reduction goal,
  • it has a clear, common transparency and accountability framework to ensure that we honour our commitments,
  • and crucially it has an in-built review mechanism to help strengthen ambition over time.

All of that shows that the international community is now serious about tackling climate change. That's a huge step forward.

But something else happened in Paris. For the first time, the world - speaking in almost unanimity - recognised that clean energy can reduce emissions, help achieve our global climate goals and at the same time drive our economies for the 21st Century.

Just consider this:

Half of the 185 country contributions (INDCs) for COP21 include explicit energy targets, mostly focusing on increasing renewables.

And that goes alongside a record breaking 164 countries now working to develop and implement policies to achieve their own renewable energy targets. As you know, for Europe that means having a minimum share of 27% renewables in our energy system by 2030.

That is crucial as it sends a clear signal to investors, businesses and policy makers that the global transition to clean energy is here to stay.

And this is particularly important in the light of the continued drop in oil prices – a trend likely to continue in 2016.

Previously, this might have been seen as a threat, with investors tempted to cash in on bargain barrels of oil.

But now, largely thanks to the clear direction of travel towards clean energy, this is seen as an opportunity to invest in renewables.

In spite of falling oil prices, clean energy investment rose 4% in 2015, hitting a new record of $329.3 billion.[1] That really is significant – it shows that the switch to clean energy is now irreversible.

And it is important for us to be clear about that when you consider that - overall - as much as $13.5 trillion of investment in clean energy technologies and energy efficiency will be needed to implement the INDCs.[2]

This is a tremendous opportunity to position European energy companies in the lead of the new global market of low-carbon technologies set to double or even triple by 2020.

But to attract that investment we need a policy framework which reflects the central importance of renewables in our energy system and economy for decades to come.

And in that respect 2016 will be a big year for the European Commission. Later this year we will put forward our proposals on a new electricity market design to help embed renewables at the heart of our system.

We are pushing for a more flexible system with new liquid and integrated short-term markets helping wind and solar become active market players. That will help renewable energy producers take responsibility for managing their own production and keeping it in balance.

Appropriately defined price setting mechanisms should signal where and when electricity - including renewables - should be generated.

The point is we need to reform the market to allow investment in new renewable energy capacity to be driven increasingly by the market.

And we also want to empower consumers to take ownership of the energy they produce and consume. That means incentivizing citizens, energy co-operatives and local authorities to become active market players in their own right.

But alongside putting renewables at the heart of our energy system, 2016 will be about putting renewable energy at the heart of our economy and way of life.

One particular area of opportunity will be the use of renewables for meeting our heating and cooling needs - a sector that accounts for half of the energy we use today in Europe. Unlocking that potential will be central to our strategy on Heating and Cooling which the Commission will propose next month.

Furthermore, before the summer we will put forward a proposal for a revised effort sharing decision, setting 2030 emission targets for each Member State which will further incentivise energy efficiency and decarbonisation in those sectors not covered by the Emissions Trading System.

Renewables will play a key role in those efforts as it also does in the reform of the ETS itself. It is now more than 10 years that the EU put in place a price on carbon as an important part of the policy framework and we will continue to work this year with the co-legislators to make sure the reform of the ETS increases incentives for further deployment of renewable energy.

And underpinning all of those is our reflection on how we can improve our renewable energy legislation, including the Renewable Energy Directive, to make sure that we meet our 2030 targets cost-effectively.

Our proposals later this year will focus on increased regional co-operation for support schemes and ensuring that Europe stays world leader in clean energy innovation and research.

As you know, the Market Design and Renewable Energy proposals are due for end 2016, and I call on you to participate actively in the public consultations and other preparatory work.

Concrete suggestions based on your knowledge and experience on the ground will be very welcome to help the Commission come forward with ambitious but at the same time realistic proposals that can further boost the use of renewable energy in Europe and the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What all of this shows is that the EU is serious about being the world leader in renewable energy.

That means making sure that clean energy drives our economy as much as it drives our path to our 2030 targets and our COP21 commitments.

Seeing the progress that EREF and its member associations have already made, and seeing first-hand the global commitment to renewables in Paris and at the General Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA) last week, I am confident that 2016 will be the year of renewables.

I look forward to working with you to make that happen and I wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year.

[1] Bloomberg New Energy Finance 2015

[2] IEA World Energy Outlook COP21 Special Briefing


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