Leading the shift to renewable power in Europe

20 November 2018

As RE-Source 2018 kicks off in Amsterdam, bringing together 800 energy buyers and suppliers, The Climate Group’s RE100 Policy and Campaign Manager Ola Mirowicz explores how RE100 members are already shifting the European renewables market and how ambitious policy change can accelerate its growth even further.

At RE-Source 2018 in Amsterdam, I'm squeezed in between over 800 businesses and energy suppliers, at the grand opening of this year’s conference. Policymakers and business leaders share their stories of investment in the European renewable energy market. The room is full and the air is one of optimism. 

With under a month to go before COP24 in Katowice, the timing for this event couldn’t be better. As the recent IPCC special report made clear, we have little time to limit global warming to below 1.5°C, and the task of delivering a just transition to a low carbon future can at times seem daunting.

Today, however, I feel galvanized by the action I’m witnessing here: ambitious companies, innovative energy suppliers, and forward-thinking policymakers and organizations showcase how they are going to bring the number of businesses buying renewable power from 100 to 100,000. This is no easy job, but as our recent RE100 Annual Progress and Insights Report shows, RE100 is already making it happen. 

RE100, led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, now brings together 155 companies committed to 100% renewable electricity in more than 140 markets across the globe. With 77 RE100 companies based in Europe, it is at the heart of our movement – and with our members’ operations spread across EU Members States, it’s no surprise to see so many familiar faces across the conference rooms. Yet there is still more to do. 

"RE100 members increased the amount of renewable electricity they source by 41% in one year"
Ola Mirowicz, RE100 Policy and Campaign Manager, The Climate Group

Accelerating the clean energy transition in Europe

Business action on renewable electricity is shifting global markets. Our new report reveals that RE100 members increased the amount of renewable electricity they source by 41% in one year -  and that 37 member companies are already sourcing over 95% renewable power.

Europe is where our members source the highest share of renewable electricity, 62% in 2017. Due to a well- functioning Guarantees of Origin tracking system, as well as dynamically developing markets for power purchase agreements (PPAs), we are expecting this number to grow exponentially. Some individual European countries are already forging ahead, with RE100 members sourcing 93% renewables in Denmark, 82% in the UK and 81% in Switzerland.

This is a fantastic story of progress. Yet despite these achievements, policy barriers are still the most commonly cited by RE100 members as limiting corporate renewables sourcing.

Unlocking corporate renewables sourcing

That’s why the businesses joining me today at the RE-Source 2018 event are calling for EU policymakers to grasp the untapped potential for corporate sourcing of renewables in Europe. This can only be realized by the removal of policy and market barriers that constrain the growth of renewables in many European markets.

Such barriers are particularly prominent for PPAs. 6 GW of PPAs have already been signed in Europe, yet we know the market is still lagging behind the USA.

Last year, we called on the EU to reform the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), so that the EU 2030 renewables target could increase to 32% and important provisions could unlock corporate investment in renewables. Now we are calling on Member States to enact it.

To fully unlock the potential for corporate PPAs in Europe, we need the EU to remove existing regulatory barriers, allowing direct corporate investment in new renewable capacity to expand beyond the Netherlands, the UK and the Nordic countries.

This work is carried forward through our involvement in the new Re-Source Declaration, co-signed by several of our RE100 members. This declaration will serve as a vehicle for enabling our policy discussions next year in EU Member States, starting with Poland, Germany, France, and the Netherlands, and building on progress in the UK and Sweden.   

Crucially, enabling greater sourcing of corporate PPAs also involves a recognition of the different needs of different companies. During my recent speaking engagements in the less saturated renewable markets of Central and Eastern Europe, namely Poland, Romania and Hungary, I learnt that while energy suppliers are ready to jump on the PPAs opportunity, our members will often have very varied consumer needs, at times driven by price, while in other places by commercial user behaviour. We are taking this into account when pushing for long-term and economically viable means to source 100% renewable electricity across different European countries.

"To fully unlock the potential for corporate PPAs in Europe, we need the EU to remove existing regulatory barriers, allowing direct corporate investment in new renewable capacity to expand"
Ola Mirowicz, RE100 Policy and Campaign Manager, The Climate Group

An economic opportunity

I am always amazed by how much can be achieved in collaborations between the energy industry, companies and third sector partners. At RE-Source 2018, we are creating peer-to-peer spaces where buyers can meet sellers and in a spirit of competition further drive down prices for renewable electricity. It is such shifts that lead to the growing economic opportunity presented by renewables - a key driver for RE100 members sourcing clean power, as shown in our recent report.

This is also a collective opportunity for EU Member States, their economies, communities and environment. In 2016, the EU wind energy industry contributed (directly and indirectly) €36.1bn to the EU's Gross Domestic Product, and by 2021, the European solar power industry is expected to sustain nearly 175,000 full time jobs. With countries like Spain showing leadership by setting targets to be 100% renewable by 2050, the opportunity presented by clean power is clearly gaining traction.  

Re-Source 2018 proves it is possible to deliver climate and energy policy from the bottom-up, with market players engaging policymakers to take action. RE100 members are driving forward the European shift to clean energy, making a calculated business choice to invest in renewable power and by doing so, growing the clean economy in the EU. This is a collaborative leadership story the EU should be proud of at COP24 in Poland this year - and a stepping stone for even more ambitious action.

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