Renewable Energy Directive should support industrial net-zero


The Association of European Renewable Energy Research Centres (EUREC) has said that it sees an opportunity for the European Commission’s Renewable Energy Directive, currently being revised, to support the aims of the Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA).

The European Parliament has proposed an amendment to the Renewable Energy Directive that would see at least five per cent of all the new renewable energy capacity added to 2030 needing to be of ‘innovative’ renewable energy technology. This could amount to several tens of gigawatts by that date, and provide market-pull for the manufacturing facilities that NZIA wants built.

It is hoped that the directive’s non-binding target will push Member States to put in place new measures to help manufacturers and installers take a chance on new, unproven high-performance technology. Some of NZIA’s measures relate to ones that EUREC have previously suggested, including regulatory sandboxes for deployments of all the main families of innovative renewable energy technology, and ‘sustainability and resilience’ award criteria in public procurements of energy from renewable energy sources.

But, according to EUREC, the NZIA could be bolder. EUREC has previously advised that non-price criteria should be used to select for products delivering any kind of performance improvement, not just an environmental performance improvement. These criteria should not be used only for public procurement, where the State is the end customer, but in tenders offering public support to any renewable energy installation.

EUREC said that it welcomes the European Commission’s call to Member States to report their progress towards re-industrialisation in the ‘Research, Innovation and Competitiveness’ components of National Energy and Climate Plans. NZIA could address the “severe lack of national objectives and funding targets” for research, innovation and competitiveness in NECPs, much like the innovative renewables provision in the renewable energy directive.

“NZIA is a step in the right direction, but its treatment of innovation is rather uneven. It is good that ‘net-zero technology manufacturing projects’ may use the fact that they ‘manufacture technologies with improved sustainability and performance'”‘ to qualify for that label. But Article 19(2)b, which governs access for net-zero technologies to public procurement, seems to consider being innovative as an undesirable characteristic, requiring justification,” commented EUREC’s Secretary General, Greg Arrowsmith.

“On 9th March, the European Commission loosened the conditions for innovative renewable energy installations to receive state aid under the General Block Exemption Regulation and the Temporary Crisis and Transition Framework. The measures in that legislation, many of them making the launch of megawatt-scale demonstration projects easier, will complement NZIA’s offer to gigawatt-scale initiatives.”

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