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A New Vision for Responsible Renewable Energy with a Clear European Dimension

AUTHORS: Catherine Bowyer-Martin Nesbit-Graham Tucker-David Baldock-Andrea Illes-Kamila Paquel

There is a strong environmental rationale for accelerating the development and deployment of renewable energy throughout Europe. Unavoidably, the scale of expansion in renewable energy needed to decarbonise European energy supply effectively, and the associated grid infrastructure, will have a range of impacts over a considerable area of Europe. However, there are ways of minimising the consequent environmental pressures. The protection of biodiversity needs particular attention given the growing spatial distribution of renewable installations. Plans for the future of the sector should combine incentives to facilitate more rapid renewable energy deployment and ensure that impacts are managed, that renewable energy is sited appropriately, that supporting infrastructure is well conceived, that investors have a secure basis for decisions and that decision-making reflects long-term pathways for climate mitigation.

The future policy framework to determine energy demand and supply in Europe is currently being designed in detail. Targets and governance structures that will determine the nature and ambition of climate and energy action for the 2020 to 2030 period are under development. Now is, therefore, the right time to develop a more robust and finely tuned framework for delivering environmentally positive renewable energy across Europe.

The effectiveness of environmental protection legislation is, currently, being limited by a lack of strategic and spatially explicit planning for energy in much of Europe. In the absence of a solid understanding of the impacts of installation, interconnection and wider infrastructure locations, efforts to establish an effective and efficient future energy system for Europe, that mitigates and minimises its impact on the environment, are in danger of being compromised. The bioenergy sector is particularly sensitive in this regard and requires a robust policy framework. 

IEEP has launched an important report, as input into ongoing negotiations between the EU Member States on post-2020 climate and energy policy. The report highlights how Europe might deploy environmentally responsible renewables. It concludes that EU policy for renewable energy needs a clear, predictable and binding framework for Member State action beyond 2020 to address: the scale of the challenge for Europe’s long-term decarbonisation; the level of private sector investment necessary; and the extent to which the energy market and physical environment cross national borders.

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