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EU Parliament backs higher targets on renewables and energy savings

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows power-generating windmill turbines in a wind farm in Morchies

By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers voted on Wednesday to raise the bloc's targets to expand renewable power and save energy, backing proposals that had been made more ambitious in a bid to quickly end Europe's reliance on Russian gas.

The vote happened as, separately, the European Commission proposed a package of emergency measures to pull down soaring energy prices this winter, including windfall profit levies on energy firms.

Those measures will apply for a few months but over the longer term, Brussels is betting on a massive rollout of wind and solar capacity to provide cheap, locally generated power - improving Europe's energy security and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Parliament backed a target to get 45% of EU energy from renewable sources by 2030, compared with 22% in 2020.

The Commission, which drafts EU policies, had initially proposed 40% last summer, but hiked that to 45% in May to attempt to spur countries to quit Russian fuels faster after Moscow invaded Ukraine.

Lawmakers also backed rules that would reduce by 2030 the share of wood-fuelled energy counted towards the EU's renewable energy targets.

The EU ranks so-called "biomass" as low-carbon since CO2 emissions produced from wood-burning are partly balanced by CO2 absorbed by the trees as they grew. Environmental groups have criticised that accounting and say burning wood fuels climate change and damages Europe's forest ecosystems.

EU lawmakers also backed a proposal on Wednesday to raise the bloc's target for primary and final energy savings to 14.5% by 2030 compared with expected energy use, and set binding contributions for every country.

Hitting the targets will require countries to shrink the years-long permitting delays that currently hamper new wind and solar projects, and renovate millions of draughty buildings to waste less energy.

The two proposals are central to a package of EU policies currently being negotiated, which aims to deliver the bloc's climate change target to slash net emissions 55% by 2030, from 1990 levels.

The votes confirm Parliament's position for upcoming negotiations with EU countries on the final laws.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)