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National Binding Renewable Energy Targets for 2020, but Not for 2030 Anymore: Why the European Commission Developed from a Supporter to a Brakeman

Alexander Bürgin

While in 2007 the European Commission suggested a national binding target of 20 per cent for the renewable energy share of EU energy consumption by 2020, its proposal of January 2014 for the follow-up period until 2030 is less ambitious: First, the suggested 27 per cent share of renewables is only slightly above the expected level of 24.4 per cent which would be achieved by the implementation of current policies. Second, the target is not legally obligatory for the member states. This article argues that the less ambitious target is explained by changed context conditions for the EU's climate and renewable energy policy, whereas the abandonment of the legal binding force of the target for the member states is the result of the bargaining strategy employed by the energy Commissioner. His margin of agency increased due to the absence of a commonly shared reform imperative and due to heterogeneous positions in the Council. This illustration of a Commissioner's individual influence has so far been neglected by the literature on the European Commission. This comparison of the drafting process of the 2020 renewable energy targets conducted in 2005/6, with the corresponding process for the 2030 targets in 2013/14 is based on a triangulation of data collection, comprising the few studies on the 2020 GHG reduction negotiations (none of which however address renewable energy and energy efficiency targets), policy documents of Council, Commission and European Parliament, public statements of the involved Commissioners in press reports, and ten semi-structured interviews with Commission officials.



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