Oettinger late last week released the European Commission's Energy Roadmap 2050, which aims to lay out renewable energy targets that go beyond the currently adopted goals for 2020.
The plan seeks to boost renewables from providing 20 percent of Europe's electricity called for in current targets for 2020 to between 55-75 percent by 2050, thus cutting greenhouse gas emissions up to 95 percent below 1990 levels.
Oettinger asserted the de-carbonization goal -- which the EU says can be achieved through a mix of energy efficiency, renewables such as wind and solar, nuclear energy and "clean coal" technology – is technologically feasible and "can be less costly" than current policies in the long run.
"Only a new energy model will make our system secure, competitive and sustainable in the long run," he said. "We now have a European framework for the necessary policy measures to be taken in order to secure the right investments."
The Energy Roadmap 2050 comes after participants at U.N.-sponsored climate talks in Durban, South Africa -- including the "big three" polluters of the United States, India and China -- this month agreed to seek a legally binding treaty to be signed by 2015 that would reduce carbon emissions in all developed and developing countries.
The first part of the 2050 road map is to have interim targets for 2030 in place for EU nations by 2014, Oettinger said -- something that won't be easy given the continent's worst financial turmoil since World War II and the precarious future of the eurozone.
"With our road map we want to ensure that, for all participants, there should be an interesting discussion on binding targets for renewables by 2030," he said at a news conference in Brussels. "This should begin now and lead to a decision in two years' time."
The new targets, laid out under five possible scenarios, are needed to give renewable energy investors certainty there will be a market for their projects far into the future, he said.
The switchover will also mean European consumers will pay more for electricity until 2030, and falling thereafter. The EU road map justifies that by saying "the costs will be outweighed by the high level of sustainable investment brought into the European economy, the related local jobs and the decreased import dependency.
"All scenarios get to de-carbonization with no major differences in terms of overall costs or security of supply implications."
Current laws requiring that 20 percent of Europe's energy from renewable sources runs out in 2020 and wrangling among member states over the specifics of the next round is sure to be intense, The Guardian reported.
The newspaper noted Poland and other East European countries want weaker targets, while others, notably in Scandinavia, are more militant about de-carbonization.
Natural gas will play a key role in serving as "bridge" to a low-carbon future, the European Commission said.
"Gas will be critical for the transformation of the energy system. Substitution of coal (and oil) with gas in the short to medium term could help to reduce emissions with existing technologies until at least 2030 or 2035," the report states.
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