REPowerEU – rethinking sustainability or just pure politics?

How can we make an effective contribution to sustainable economic and social development? Is that really the question that is at the center of all efforts and activities, all plans and guidelines that come from Brussels, or are they mainly serving political interests that really don't care about our ecosystems?

The fact is that REPowerEU is a plan to rapidly reduce dependence on fossil fuels from Russia and accelerate ecological transition - according to the official broadcast from Brussels. 

It is also a fact that against the background of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on March 8, 2022, the EU-Commission presented a draft plan to make Europe independent of Russian fossil fuels well before 2030. At the meeting of the European Council on March 24/25 EU leaders then agreed on this target and asked the Commission to present the detailed REPowerEU plan, which was adopted on May 18.

Paper is known to be patient

REPowerEU includes a package that, among other things, consists of measures on the topics of renewable energy expansion, grid expansion, approval procedures and the electricity market. In view of the gas shortage and rising costs, the electricity industry is currently facing enormous challenges in regard of security of supply and price stability. Especially in the current situation, the long-awaited transformation processes should finally be able to be accelerated.

So there is a lot in this paper, above all the goals are once again set high, which is always a good strategy for politics. How these sometimes lofty goals are to be implemented in concrete terms is missing.

It's about expanding renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency - again - as it has been for years - but it doesn't feel like anything has really happened, maybe because there are other agendas behind it? So far so good, maybe this time political interests also serve environmental protection.

Expansion of renewable energies, committed goals

The Commission is proposing to increase the headline target for 2030 for renewable energies from 40 percent to 45 percent as part of the “Fit for 55” package. Setting this more ambitious overall target will set the framework for other initiatives, including a solar strategy, measures to integrate geothermal and solar thermal energy into upgraded district heating systems, and an acceleration of the slow and complex permitting process for renewable energy projects.

Many of the planned measures sound reasonable - are they also sustainable, that is the question. It is enormously important to sensibly close natural cycles while preserving and respecting nature. But this is exactly what seems to be in danger. At the conference of the Austrian environmental ombudsmen in Strobl, this point caused big excitement. In a joint statement, they have already warned against “abolishing mandatory nature- and species-protection regulations”, which could do more harm than good in the long term.

Feasibility and cost of implementation?

Another point of criticism is dedicated to the major issue of skilled workers - where do well-trained skilled workers who could implement all this, come from? And then there is the challenging issue of funding.

Huge investment sums of 210 billion euros are required by 2027 to achieve the goals of REPowerEU. The Commission will introduce carbon differential contracts to encourage industry use of green hydrogen and provide dedicated funding under the Innovation Fund, with revenues from emissions trading, to further support the reduction of dependency on Russian fossil fuels.

Massive expansion of renewable energy deployments in power generation, industry, buildings and transport is designed to make us more self-sufficient, drive ecological change and bring prices down over time. Let's hope so!

Original contribution in german:
Guest commentary Dr. Susanne Lederer-Pabst in Börse Social Ausgabe 06/2022