Thank you, Jernej, for hosting us!
These have been three very informative and busy days for me here in Slovenia and I have had the chance to see the green transition happening on the ground.
I had a very interesting programme outside of the capital, including the hydropower plant in Brežice, visiting the Katapult start-up centre, a Citizens’ Dialogue and meetings with ministers, parliamentarians and energy regulators.
Yesterday, I also attended the High-Level Meeting on Central and South Eastern Europe Connectivity, where we discussed promoting renewable energy and decarbonisation – quite a change from the times when CESEC used to focus mostly on gas.
As the green energy transition gathers speed, I think it’s becoming more and more important to learn from each other’s experiences and look for the best solutions together.
And this is of course also the reason for today’s meeting. In July, the Commission proposed the historic Fit for 55 package to deliver the Green Deal and this morning was our first occasion to discuss it with the national energy ministers.
I know that for my colleagues in the Member States, this is a challenging collection of measures. The size of the package is unprecedented and the proposals are strongly interlinked, not to mention the overall ambition to deliver a 55% cut in emissions by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050.
But we have all together agreed to achieve these objectives, as we know that there is no alternative – we are already beginning to see the cost of inaction in Europe and around the globe and it is steep. Now is the time to deliver what we have committed to.
The July package included two dedicated energy proposals: updating the renewable energy and energy efficiency directives.
Getting to our new climate goals of course means ramping up the energy targets as well: We need 40% of renewables in our energy mix by 2030, not 32% as is the current objective. And we need to save 9% more energy than we would with our current plans.
With the Renewable Energy Directive revision, the EU provides a complete framework for renewable deployment. We are in particular focussing on areas where progress remains moderate: buildings, industry, and transport.
Electrifying the European transport sector is one of the keys to our success and that was the topic of our second session today – my good colleague Adina Valean will tell you about it in more detail as soon as I will finish my remarks.
Reaching net zero does not only require green energy, but also using less energy overall.
In addition to the new EU headline energy efficiency target, we propose to increase the annual energy savings obligation to 1.5%. Each Member State will be able to focus on the sectors with the biggest energy efficiency potential, be it housing or industry.
In conclusion, I want to look at our renewables and energy efficiency policy in the context of what is currently happening on the EU energy markets – something that many ministers brought up during today’s discussion.
Electricity prices have increased across the EU. This is due to a combination of factors, but mostly high natural gas prices and the increasing post-crisis demand. This is a global development, with most countries affected, regardless of their location or market arrangements.
In the long run, the solution to today’s conundrum is clear: we need more renewables and we need to improve our energy efficiency.
Renewables are already today in the EU usually the cheapest source of power. We must keep investing in wind and solar to make affordable green energy available to all. Today’s situation underlines that we have to end our dependence on foreign, volatile fossil fuels as soon as possible.
We also need to take energy efficiency seriously. It is the only real solution to energy poverty and the best antidote to growing energy bills – using less energy means paying for less energy. Now is a good time to take advantage of the available EU and domestic recovery funds and prioritise renovation and other energy efficiency measures.
As part of the July package, we have proposed the new Social Climate Fund that would use the ETS revenues to balance the impact of the energy prices, providing funding for renovation and renewables projects as well as direct support to consumers.
But this is all in the future and the prices are rising now.
There are tools that the Member States can use to address the situation immediately: VAT and excise policy, targeted measures for energy poor and vulnerable consumers or temporary measures for households and small businesses, as well as direct support to consumers are all steps that can be taken, fully in line with the EU rules.
My services stand ready to support all Member States in designing their measures and we have been doing that bilaterally throughout the summer, in a very constructive way.
To build on this work, I proposed to the Ministers today to draw up a more structured toolbox, which we believe could be useful for all Member States to tackle the current situation.
In this way, the Commission could help Member States to navigate the options available to them at national level, while staying within the EU policy framework and keeping our climate objectives in sight.
I am grateful to the ministers for the discussions and input and would like to end by thanking the Slovenian Presidency for organising the Informal Council and putting Fit for 55 on the agenda.