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EU Reaches Deal on Renewable Energy Target

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EU leaders have agreed on a bill that would require the region to use renewable resources for 20 percent of its energy needs by 2020. While they reached an agreement yesterday, details of the bill still need to be worked out at a summit in Brussels later this week.

If passed, the deal will allow member states to run joint projects on renewable electricity production, heating or cooling. It also adds the ability for member states to fulfill their EU obligations using renewable electricity produced by new projects in third-party countries, as long as the electricity is consumed in the EU.

According to BusinessWeek, that means a country such as France could build big solar arrays in North Africa, and then plug into them from home and count the energy and the carbon dioxide savings toward its EU obligations.

The bill is part of a wider EU climate change package that’s targeting a 20-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, as the AFP notes, as well as a 20-percent reduction in energy use.

Transportation is a significant part of the bill; it stipulates a goal of at least 10 percent renewable energy in the transport sector by 2020. Second-generation biofuels get extra credit, with biofuels produced from waste, residues, or non-food biomass to be counted at two times the input toward the 10-percent target.

There’s an extra incentive for electric cars as well, with renewable electricity consumed by electric cars to be credited at two-and-a-half times the input. But trains won’t be getting as much love; renewable electricity for railroads would only be counted once.

The AFP said that Italy, which doesn’t have much in the way of a renewable energy infrastructure right now, gained a concession in the bill that calls for the EU to review the agreement in 2014. But in a statement, the EU said that the review will not affect the overall 20-percent target but will “serve to improve, if necessary, the efficiency of cooperation mechanisms.”

At least one environmental activist group isn’t completely happy with the bill. The Climate Action Network is criticizing the use of so-called “effort sharing,” which sets energy reduction targets for individual sectors, including agriculture, transport and households, none of which are covered by carbon emission trading schemes. The group told AFP there was no credible mechanism to ensure compliance in those sectors, calling the effort-sharing part of the bill “a farce.”