Opening remarks by Executive Vice-President Timmermans and Commissioner Simson at the press conference on the REPowerEU Plan

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Opening remarks by Executive Vice-President Timmermans

As we all know, on the 24th of February, the world changed and especially, Europe changed, and changed for good. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the imminent threat to our security and our way of life it poses, has added a huge challenge to an already quite loaded agenda with huge challenges.

On top of Covid, on top of the environmental and biodiversity crisis, of the many geopolitical challenges we already had, we now have to deal with military aggression, thuggery and right up barbarism inflicted on a peaceful and democratic European country.

One of the many consequences of this unprecedented criminal behaviour is a massive disruption of European and global energy markets. This disruption affects us Europeans directly, profoundly because of our dependence on Russian fossil fuels.

It is clear we need to put an end to this dependence as soon as possible and a lot faster that we had foreseen before this war.

In March, we showed it could be done. The European Council in Versailles decided it should be done. Today, we show how it will be done.

First and foremost, we must understand that our other challenges, just as the green and digital transition have not lost their urgency. On the contrary, it is more urgent than ever that Europe becomes master of their own destiny, increase its resilience and sovereignty, and continue to lead the world in facing the climate crisis.

Now, REPowerEU is a plan for saving energy, for producing clean energy, and diversifying our energy supplies.

We will take short-term measures and we will take medium-term measures that will be completed before 2027.

These measures have three elements:

First of all, we need to be much better at saving energy. The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use and we will take measures to achieve that.

Secondly, we need to diversify our energy supply. For that, we need to engage with strategic partnerships with countries across the world both on LNG and pipeline gas, but also on the future hydrogen economy that they all want to be part of.

And thirdly, we need to speed up our transition to renewable energy resourcing. There is a huge potential for rooftop solar. We can go into the details if you want. There is a huge potential for on- and offshore wind. There is a huge potential for increase biomethane production.

And if we do all these things, we will first of all reduce our imports of Russian gas with one third already this year, and then working towards 2027 reduce our dependency to zero, if all works well.

Kadri, over to you.

 

Opening remarks by Commissioner Simson

Thank you, Frans.

You have outlined our concrete and comprehensive plan on how we can end the EU’s dangerous dependence on Russian fossil fuels and Russian gas in particular. Let me fill in some of the details.

With today’s REPowerEU plan we set out a range of actions stretching across all the dimensions of energy policy. But renewable energy is at the heart of this effort.

Most of the Russian fossil fuel imports into the EU can and should be replaced by energy savings and renewables. That’s why today we propose to increase the renewables’ share in our energy mix to 45% by 2030.

By 2030, the share of wind and solar energy in power production capacities should double, from current 33% to 67%. By then, solar energy would also be the largest electricity source in the EU, with more than half coming from roof-tops. Wind energy would represent 31% of installed capacity in 2030.

This is a challenging objective, but feasible, considering our strong renewables industry and continuous technical progress. But whenever we talk about rapid deployment of renewables, there is an elephant in the room. Getting a permit might take as long as 9 years for wind and up to 4 years for solar projects. This is time we do not have.

To speed things up, today we propose a new path.

First, we can make permitting faster and more streamlined within the current rules. Based on a large stakeholder consultation, we today share best practices and provide guidance to the Member States on the best ways to do that.

But to get to 45%, we must think out of the box. We therefore propose to amend the Renewable Energy Directive:

  • First, to make clear that the production of renewable energy is an overriding public interest;
  • Second, to apply simplified rules to all stages of the administrative process, from notification to connection to the grid;
  • And third, to introduce ‘go-to’ areas, where permitting procedures will be done much faster – suitable for areas with lower environmental risks. In these ‘go-to’ areas it shouldn’t take more than a year.

Let me be clear: this will not come at the expense of the environment. We are not proposing to water down those protections. We are proposing a different approach.

This will unlock the potential of both wind and solar energy in the EU. After this press conference, I will join the President to travel to Denmark for the North Sea Wind Summit, with the leaders of the host country, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium will announce a new phase of cooperation in wind energy.

While we already have ambitious strategies in place for offshore renewable energy and hydrogen, solar energy has so far been the missing piece. We are changing this today.

With today’s strategy, we aim to double solar photovoltaic capacity by 2025 and reach 600 GW by 2030.

Solar energy is especially well suited to the energy challenges we are facing right now. The technology can be rolled out rapidly and it’s affordable: the costs have decreased 82% over the last decade.

We are triggering quick and massive PV deployment via the European Solar Rooftops Initiative. To underpin this, we propose to amend the Energy Performance of Buidings Directive to make solar panels on the roofs of buildings mandatory in the coming years.

Boosting renewables means also boosting the manufacturing and installation chains. To ensure the availability of skilled workers, we will establish an EU large-scale skills partnership. We also want more of the solar panels to be manufactured in the EU and will launch the European Solar PV Industry Alliance to facilitate this.

While most of the Russian gas will be replaced by renewables and savings, we will need to secure around 50bcm of LNG and 10 bcm of pipeline gas annually from non-Russian sources.

Intense work on this has been going on since last Autumn and it has yielded results. April broke again the record of monthly LNG deliveries to Europe, with 12.6 bcm. In the same month, pipeline gas supply from Russia went down to 26% of EU gas consumption. If you compare it to the previous year, previous April, it was 40%.

We have set up the EU Energy Platform – to aggregate the gas demand for Member States interested to replace Russian gas supplies, and to coordinate the use of infrastructure, and reach out to our global partners.

As the next step, the Commission considers creating a voluntary ‘joint purchasing mechanism’, that would negotiate on behalf of participating Member States gas and, in the future, hydrogen supplies.

We had already a first test run with the regional Task Force set up in Sofia on 5 May to help Bulgaria after Gazprom’s decision to cut off gas supplies. After joint statements with the United States and Canada, we hope to reach political agreements for LNG deliveries with other partners before this summer.

The work of this platform takes place in a broader political and strategic context and we adopted today our new external energy strategy. It makes clear that accelerating the global green and just energy transition and supporting our partners across the world on this path remains an overarching priority for the EU. We therefore intend to build long-term energy partnerships that go beyond the immediate energy security needs – for example by extending cooperation on gas to renewable hydrogen or tackling methane emissions.

We also renew our commitment to Ukraine and other close neighbours strongly affected by the war. We will continue to provide energy supplies and work towards making electricity trade with Ukraine possible. The Commission will also support Ukraine in rebuilding a green and modern energy system after the war, as reflected in its future reconstruction plan the College discussed today.

Finally, let me mention a topic that is not under the REPowerEU umbrella, but still related to it. Russia’s actions have triggered unprecedented price volatility on the energy markets. This is why we are today presenting a communication on prices and energy markets.

We are proposing short-term measures that the Member States can take to tackle unusually high prices, from taxing windfall profits to using regulated prices for more consumers. And we are highlighting areas where the current electricity market design can be improved.

I want to conclude on this, because it is easy to dismiss Europe’s ambition to become independent from Russian gas as wishful thinking or even as a recipe for high prices.

We recognise that untying Europe from its largest energy supplier is going to be difficult. But the economic benefits of ending our dependency will be much greater than the short-term cost of REPowerEU. And in this way, we will build faster a more secure, sustainable and affordable energy system for the EU and for our citizens.

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