Press Releases Press remarks by Executive Vice-President Šefčovič and Commissioners Simson and Hoekstra on the EU Wind Power Package and the State of the Energy Union 2023

Press remarks by Executive Vice-President Šefčovič and Commissioners Simson and Hoekstra on the EU Wind Power Package and the State of the Energy Union 2023

Opening remarks by Executive Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič

Good afternoon.

Today, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, addressed the College by videoconference and the Commission reaffirmed its unwavering support to Ukraine for as long as it takes. Now we can find his speaking points, as they are already publicly available.

Then, the College adopted four main files:

In a moment, together with Commissioner Simson and Commissioner Hoekstra, we will present to you the European Wind Power Package as well as the State of the Energy Union Report for 2023.

The College also adopted a communication on addressing medicine shortages in the EU. It will be presented to you by Commissioner Kyriakides right after this press conference.

We also adopted a communication on the promotion of investments in clean technologies, and the impact of the US Inflation Reduction Act on this type of investments, as well as the measures taken in response by the EU.

This communication will feed into the discussions of this week’s European Council.

Lastly, the College discussed a series of actions to assist the public administrations of Member States and candidate countries in preparing and implementing reforms, improving competitiveness, and managing the twin transitions.

This last file will be formally adopted through finalisation procedure tomorrow. Commissioner Ferreira will come to the press room to present it to you tomorrow, at 1:15pm.

With that, let me now pass to the main topic of this press conference.

As mentioned, today the College adopted two key initiatives for the European Green Deal and REPowerEU: the European Wind Energy Package and the State of the Energy Union Report.

The State of the Energy Union Report recognises that we have avoided the worst possible consequences of the energy crisis caused by Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and its weaponisation of energy.

Despite unprecedented challenges, the EU succeeded in reducing its dependence on Russian fossil fuels while accelerating the clean energy transition.

Kadri will go into more detail about the State of the Energy Union Report in a few minutes.

As part of this package, we have also adopted the Climate Action Progress Report. I’m happy to be alongside Wopke for the first time here as we present this report, and he will likewise dive into more detail later on. But let me just highlight one key figure:

This Report shows that the EU’s net greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 32.5% compared to 1990 levels, falling another 3% last year. This demonstrates that we have maintained our trajectory, despite all the challenges over the last year.

While these reports have some positive results which we should be proud of, they also acknowledge the challenges in several areas, such as security of supplies and deployment of renewables.

The report sets out how we must further strengthen the European energy system to make sure the clean energy transition goes hand in hand with industrial competitiveness.

For this, we will keep supporting Europe’s industry throughout the transition. We must ensure that the Green Deal is a success story for European companies and European workers.

And today we are delivering on this commitment with the European Wind Energy Package.

We want wind power to continue to be a European success story, both from an energy and an industry perspective.

Because it is indeed a European success story.

Let me give you some figures. In 2022, wind power provided on average 16% of electricity consumed in the EU, and on many days more than 30%. Our competitive and integrated ecosystem – with close to 250 factories built along the entire value chain in nearly all EU Member States – has capacity sufficient to cover most of the current demand. The main European manufacturers accounted for some 85% of the EU’s wind market.

The wind sector has become an important growth and job creator for Europe. It contributes an estimated €36 to 42 billion to the EU’s GDP and has provided 300 000 high quality jobs.

But our industry is now facing serious challenges: insufficient and uncertain demand, slow and complex permitting, lack of access to raw materials, high inflation and commodity prices, unsupportive national tender design, increased pressure from international competitors, and risks to the availability of a skilled workforce.

The package we present today is our immediate response to these complicated challenges.

Wind energy is renewable, abundantly available throughout Europe and secure. It is an essential to meeting the EU’s objectives to deliver clean and affordable electricity to our households, industry and, increasingly, transport.

We have to fully seize the opportunity presented by the development of this strategic sector.

The Plan outlines the urgent steps the Commission, Member States and the industry must take to boost the competitiveness of this vital sector.

To conclude, I will simply underline that this package is not just relevant for the wind sector. Several of the proposed measures, notably on permitting and design of tenders and auctions, are also of relevance for other renewable energy sources.

On that note, I will hand over to Kadri, to provide you with some more details.

Opening remarks by Commissioner Simson

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

As Maros mentioned, we discussed today an important package of reports to support our energy and clean tech sectors, including the State of the Energy Union and the Wind Power Action Plan.

The State of the Energy Union report shows that the EU turned last year’s crisis into an opportunity to accelerate its clean energy transition.

The dependence on oil, coal and gas from Russia has gone down drastically.

The geography of Europe’s gas trade has been redesigned.

Now LNG has taken a much greater importance in the gas mix.

New tools like demand reduction, storage policy and AggregateEU have worked effectively.

Thanks to them, we enter this winter from a much safer position.

However, a striking conclusion from the Report is that renewables were at the forefront of Europe’s energy security success.

Last year, the EU achieved a record level of deployment for wind and solar, plus 47%. Sales of heat pumps and electric vehicles rose to unprecedented levels.

Furthermore, our report on investments in clean technologies shows the EU is the second largest global investor in clean tech, despite the US Inflation Reduction Act.

Confidence in renewables helped Member States increase the 2030 targets for renewable energy, and energy efficiency.

Energy security has not derailed the clean transition. Europe’s net greenhouse gas emissions went down by around 3% in 2022 – continuing the downward trend of the last 30 years.

If all Fit for 55 measures are implemented, we are on track towards the EU’s 2030 target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 55% – and possibly even surpass it.

Of course, this requires a strong focus on the implementation of these European-wide targets by Member States and on facilitating increased investments in clean energy.

It also requires a Europe’s clean tech manufacturing eco-system that is fit to serve, in the next years, the fast increase in renewables energy we need to achieve our net zero targets.

The Competitiveness of clean technologies report is quite clear – in some sectors Europe is falling behind.

Dependencies are intensifying.

Europe does not have the intention of scaling down its decarbonisation ambitions, so it must also act to reduce its dependency on imported technologies, which will come with both economic and security risks.

That’s why today we present the European Wind Power Action Plan.

Wind power is a technology born here in Europe.

The wind industry is a European success story, and it must remain so.

However, today, it is facing multiple challenges.

It is being negatively impacted by a combination of factors, from supply chain disruptions, increased cost of components, rising interest rates and slow permitting.

In the space of two years, Europe has lost its leadership as the largest world market for wind to the Asia Pacific region. Now this trend starts to be visible in the EU as well.

This happens as the pressure from international competitors is growing. These players can leverage the advantage of operating in larger domestic markets and benefiting from various forms of government support.

Our Wind Power action plan is meant to give the European wind industry the confidence to scale up, invest, and innovate.

We focus on six actions.

First, we want to accelerate projects by easing permitting constraints.

The EU has four times more wind capacity in permitting than under construction. This must be rectified. We want to accelerate implementation of relevant legislation, provide training, put stronger focus on digitalisation, and help with best practices to Member States. The goal is to ensure that no time is lost to screening and approving projects.

We will also provide predictability for governments’ plans for future auctions to help manufacturers scale up. The Commission will set up a special IT tool where all the Member States deployment plans will be presented in one place.

We will support the necessary build-out of electricity grids with a Grids Action Plan next month.

Second, we want to improve the auction systems.

We propose that Member States use pre-qualification criteria, such as environmental, sustainability and cybersecurity requirements, to select qualified contractors for participating in auctions.

If we spend billions to develop new projects, we should mitigate risks for implementation, for the level playing field and for security.

Third, we will work together with the European Investment Bank to improve access to finance.

The EIB has agreed to set up, within six months, a dedicated counter-guarantee instrument to help manufacturers to obtain easier access to loans.

We will also double the next Innovation Fund call for clean technology manufacturing projects in November to 1.4 billion euros. Wind power projects will have more preferential access to the Projects Development Assistance Facility.

Fourth, we will ensure the level playing field and help facilitate access to foreign markets.

This includes using our trade defence instruments and trade agreements to strengthen the competitiveness of the EU wind industry, and paying specific attention to the needs of the sector in ongoing negotiations for new agreements.

Fifth, we will focus on skills.

We will enhance mapping to better direct our reskilling efforts to best benefit the sector.  The Net-Zero Academies will train 100.000 people annually.

And finally, we invite the Member States and industry to agree on an EU Wind Charter.  Each actor must take responsibility for the measures within its remit.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The EU target of at least 42.5% renewable energy by 2030 will require a massive increase in installed renewable capacity.

The wind sector will have to contribute significantly, and can do so only from a strong position.

I will not spare any effort to create the best conditions for European wind to flourish again, nor will this Commission.

Hopefully, today’s Action Plan will provide the industry with some tailwind!

I will now pass the floor to Wopke.


Opening remarks by Commissioner Hoekstra

Thank you very much dear Kadri, and ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

Today we also present our Climate Action Progress Report.

The report gives an overview of overall emission reductions and of progress in the different sectors.

As such, it tells us whether we are on track or not to deliver on our climate targets.

And the main conclusion is: yes, the EU is delivering.

In spite of the difficulties that resulted from the energy crisis, we cut emissions compared to last year and compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The trends confirm, I could say once again, that climate action and economic growth go hand-in-hand: because the GDP growth in 2022 was 3.5% while our emissions actually decreased by 3%

The COVID-recovery is still visible, especially in transport and travel emissions – sectors that were still rebounding in 2022.

In addition to this, we also saw low generation of nuclear power and hydropower, due to plants being temporarily offline and of course due to drought.

Combined with the energy crisis and high gas prices, this meant that some more coal was used to replace gas in 2022.

This is however a short-term effect. As, in fact, you’ve heard Kadri say it just now: we actually turned last year’s crisis into an opportunity, an opportunity to accelerate our energy transition.

In the past year, the pace of renewables rollout increased, and net emissions in 2022 were 5.6% lower than in 2019, and 2.4 lower than 2021.

This year, the report also includes the progress assessment under the European Climate Law.

To prepare for the Global Stocktake, the Climate Law requires that every five years the Commission assesses overall progress towards our climate targets.

Here as well, we can conclude that we are on track.

Our domestic greenhouse gas emissions are falling steadily.

This pathway is in line with what is needed to reach our 2030 and 2050 targets.

However, to fully achieve these targets, the pace of emissions reduction needs to step up.

And it is fair to say that three things stand out:

  • One: significant emissions cuts are needed in buildings and transport. Progress in these sectors has been sluggish at best.
  • Two: the natural carbon sink needs to grow. In certain places, the carbon sink has become a source of emissions, and that is worrying.
  • And three: we need much more substantial progress in cutting emissions in agriculture.

In light of all this, speedy implementation of the full Fit-for-55 package is absolutely crucial.

We are also looking forward to receiving the outstanding draft updates of the National Energy and Climate Plans of the member states.

These plans are a fundamental tool to keep track and recommend Member States where additional action may be needed.

The Commission needs to be able to finalize these recommendations by the end of this year.

Then a short word on fossil fuel subsides before I close.

Energy subsidies have increased over the past year, in response to the energy crisis. And that was necessary in the immediate.

Still, it does have to change.

Most fossil fuel subsidies are anachronistic and unhelpful to our clean energy transition.

And in the COP28 mandate, all Member States, and I say again, all member states agreed: fossil fuel subsidies that do not address either energy poverty or just transition should be phased out as soon as possible.

Just yesterday, a coalition of 130 companies called for exactly the same thing.

The update of the National Energy and Climate Plans is therefore an opportunity for Member States to propose policies and measures to phase out fossil fuels and boost their clean energy transition in a way that makes it accessible to all.

In conclusion, we are on track, but we also need to pick up our pace.

Climate change is already impacting nature and people more intensely, more frequently, and in more places than previously thought.

Europe has been warming twice as much as the global average, and last year saw more and more extreme weather events: droughts, wildfires, but also flooding and heat.

The heat stress alone led to over 61.000 excess deaths across Europe in 2022.

Every increment, every single increment of warming will intensify the impacts, so the urgency of our action could not be clearer.

That goes for Europe, but of course also for the rest of the world.

So this is also the message that I will take with me to COP28.

Thank you.

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