MEPs fast-track renewables permits, Greens see red on Metsola interview

MEPs vote to boost deployment of renewable energy across EU, while Greens question Metsola interview in which she commented on costs of climate adaptability

MEPs have voted to boost the deployment of renewable energy across the EU bloc, in line with the Green Deal and REPowerEU plans.

The update of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), which was already agreed upon between MEPs and Council, now raises the share of renewables in the EU’s final energy consumption to 42.5% by 2030, while member states should strive to achieve 45%.

The rules speed up the permits for new renewable energy power plants, such as solar panels or wind turbines, or to adapt existing ones.

Under the Directive, national authorities should take no longer than 12 months to approve new renewable energy installations, if located in so-called “renewables go-to areas”. Outside such areas, the process should not exceed 24 months.

Lead MEP Markus Pieper (EPP, DE), said the law effectively has designated renewables as an overriding public interest, streamlining their approval process. “In our pursuit of greater energy independence and CO2 reduction, we have raised our renewable energy targets. This directive is evidence that Brussels can be unbureaucratic and pragmatic.”

The law will allow more member states to ensure faster permitting for wind power, photovoltaics, hydropower, geothermal energy, and tidal currents. Biomass from wood will remain classified as renewable energy. Under the principle of ‘Positive silence’, investments will be deemed approved in the absence of administrative feedback. “We now urgently need an EU electricity market design and an immediate shift to hydrogen for a greener transition,” Pieper said.

The legislation was adopted with 470 votes to 120, with 40 abstentions. It will now have to be formally endorsed by Council in order to come into law.

The legislative revision stems from the ‘Fit for 55’ package, adapting existing climate and energy laws to meet the new EU objective of a minimum 55% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030.

The proposed targets were further raised under the REpowerEU package, which aims to cut European dependence on fossil fuel imports from Russia, following its aggression in Ukraine. In the transport sector, renewables deployment should lead to a 14.5% reduction by 2030 in greenhouse gas emissions, by using a greater share of advanced biofuels and a more ambitious quota for renewable fuels of non-biological origin, such as hydrogen.

MEPs also voted for member states states to set an indicative target for innovative renewable energy technology of at least 5% of newly installed renewable energy capacity, as well as a binding framework for cross-border energy projects.

Various proposals in the Conference on the Future of Europe, which was convened for the EU’s citizens to enter a dialogue on the direction of the European Union, call for the acceleration of the EU’s green transition through increased investments in renewable energy and for the reduction of dependence on oil and gas imports.

Greens versus Metsola

In other political developments related to ongoing climate rules in the European Parliament, Green MEPs criticised European Parliament President Roberta Metsola after she was reported as saying that climate policies could be pushing voters toward populist parties in the lead-up to next year’s European election.

Metsola was reported in the Financial Times saying that a “proportionality test” and a proper cost assessment were needed for new regulations.

“Euroscepticism grew because the parties of the centre took their voters for granted,” the Maltese politician added, referring to her own European People’s party and the centre-left Socialists and Democrats. “If the EPP and S&D have lost ground, we have to ask ourselves why. Why have we stopped talking to our businesses? Have we not placed being climate ambitious as not being mutually exclusive with economic growth?”

While the EPP recently called for a moratorium on regulation and opposed a plan to improve biodiversity by rewilding some farmland, Metsola said her comments reflected the view of members as a whole. “We don’t do a proportionality test. We don’t ask once it is implemented, how much will it really cost?” she said. “This will be my fifth European election. And it’s a question we get asked every time: ‘You talk of big regulatory projects, but you don’t cost them.’”

Politico later reported that Terry Reintke, a German MEP who co-chairs the Greens’ group, had called on Metsola to clarify her comments, adding that saying that  climate regulation was driving populism “is not the position of the European Parliament.”

Another German MEP, Michael Bloss, said Metsola should apologise. “I expect Metsola to comment on this again... This statement cannot be left unchallenged. Climate protection is human protection, and right-wing populism is inhumane. These are two very different things that must not be mistaken,” he told Politico.

But Metsola’s spokesperson Jüri Laas denied any policy shift on climate change. “We have always been saying that we need a climate agenda which is strong and very ambitious, but that we need to keep the people on board, otherwise it will not work... The president is very green.”

Metsola’s spokesperson said the EP president was saying that the Green Deal should be done right in a bid not to be weaponised by populists, while the EPP group’s spokesperson opined that Metsola was only interpreting current polls.

Indeed, eroding living standards from high inflation, concerns over immigration and the cost of climate change policies, could be seen as fuelling a rightward tilt among voters, with polls pointing to big gains for hard-right parties such as Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FdL) as well as losses for the Greens, Liberals and other centrists. However, the four big pro-European groupings are likely to retain a majority.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The action was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this action. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the action.

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