Beyond 2020: Design and impact of a harmonised policy for renewable electricity in Europe (on behalf of the European Commission)

Analysis of the design and the impact of a harmonised support policy for renewable energy in Europe, with focus on renewable electricity.

Support regimes for renewable energy sources in EU Member States are currently as diverse as the Member States themselves. The possibility of harmonising them has been under discussion among EU policy makers for years, especially regarding renewable electricity.

The current European energy and climate policy framework centres on the “20-20-20” headline targets to be achieved by 2020: A reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels; a share of 20% renewables in gross final energy consumption; and a 20% improvement in energy efficiency. Directive 2009/28/EC, also known as the Renewables Directive, splits the 20% RES target up into individual 2020 targets for each Member State. It does not, however, specify which instruments shall be used to ensure target achievement. As a result, a variety of support regimes for renewable energy sources have been developed in EU Member States, ranging from feed-in laws to tradable certificate schemes, and from investment grants to tax deductions. For the period after 2020, harmonisation, meaning the top-down implementation of a common support scheme throughout the EU, could be realised in a variety of ways.

Against this background, the main objectives of the beyond2020 project were:

  •  to look more closely beyond 2020 by designing and evaluating feasible pathways of a (non-)harmonised European policy framework for supporting an enhanced exploitation of renewable electricity in particular, and renewable energy sources in general
  •  to provide guidance on improving policy design
  •  to provide the scientific knowledge base for the design, evaluation and implementation of policy proposals for the (non-)harmonisation of RES support in Europe

Strategically, the project aimed to contribute to:

  • the forming of a European vision of a joint future RES policy framework in the mid- to long-term
  • a smooth transition from the present to a future climate and energy framework
  •  to assure investor's confidence on the long-term perspectives for renewables in general, and renewable electricity in particular, by establishing the process for the formulation of the post-2020 RES policy framework well in time

Under the coordination of TU Vienna’s Energy Economics Group, the project consortium developed an analytical framework for harmonization policies. A quantitative model-based analysis of future renewables deployment and corresponding cost and expenditures based on the Green-X model and a detailed qualitative analysis, focussing on strategic impacts as well as political practicability and guidelines for juidical implementation were carried out in order to provide a thorough impact assessment and to contrast different instruments as well as corresponding design elements. Policy pathways were then assessed using the multi-criteria decision aid method PROMETHEE. The project was embedded in an intense and interactive dissemination framework consisting of regional and topical workshops, expert talks, internet based provision of project results, printed material and a final conference.

The project ended in December 2013. Outcomes included a fine-tailored policy package, offering a concise representation of key outcomes as well as a detailed comparison of pros and cons of each policy pathway from various perspectives.