Energy is the foundation stone of prosperity, security, and peace. Yet the European Union’s economic
dependence on fossil fuels, of which the lion’s share is imported, is exposing the EU to threats from
climate change, global geopolitics, and resource competition from rising economies. These risks could
undermine our industrial and social model and ultimately European stability itself.
In response to these challenges, the 27 member states of the European Union unanimously agreed in
2007 to binding targets to change the basis of Europe’s energy supply. By 2020, the EU must reduce its
greenhouse gas emissions by 20%—and by 30% when the conditions are right—and increase the share of
renewable energy in energy demand to 20%. Energy efficiency must improve by one-fifth. These targets
are at the heart of the European Commission’s broad economic strategy for the year 2020, known as
Meeting these targets not only is essential for the climate change challenge, but also will dramatically
improve security of supply by making the EU economy more efficient, decoupling growth from resource
use, and creating more than 1.5 million extra jobs. The EU economy will be strengthened, with savings of
at least €60 billion ($81.6 billion) in decreased oil and gas imports, which can be invested in the domestic
To do this, we must—within just a few years—generate more than one-third of our power from
renewable sources of electricity. A significant part of our heating and transport must be based on renew-
able fuels. It is not enough to tinker around the edges. We need huge, practical, and concrete initiatives
involving society as a whole. And we need to persuade our international partners to follow the same track.
The benefits are easy to see: lower imports, new jobs, cleaner air, more stable international energy
markets and prices, lower energy bills, greater consumer empowerment. Renewable energy offers solu-
tions to many of our problems—security, economic, and environmental. The switch to an economy with
a large share of renewable and low-carbon sources is the only way to ensure sustainable economic growth
that brings benefits to all parts of society.
Never before have businesses and consumers had to face such a daunting task. New energy sources
call for new networks to bring them to customers. Intermittent generation requires new approaches to
balancing demand and supply. New and renewable technologies must become much more efficient and
commercially attractive. At the same time, we have to deal with economic uncertainty and growing global
It is unprecedented, even in a buoyant economy, for markets alone to make the types of investments
and projects our system needs. The cost–benefit analysis for renewable energy is not simple for many
investors. In addition, today’s credit crunch risks undermining many advances industry has made in recent
years. We also have to face up to the adverse impact on investment and investment planning that could
ensue from the weak Copenhagen climate agreement.
Moving to a low-carbon economy calls for investments in the order of billions of euros. But climate
and security risks also have a cost, which could be several times higher. There is a growing consensus that
the investments we make today will pay for themselves many times over in the future, in terms of cheaper
energy, greater energy security, new businesses and markets, a cleaner environment, and climate change
mitigation. We cannot afford to miss out on the huge technology and employment opportunities and
geopolitical security of renewable power.
Our 2020 targets are a stepping-stone toward the EU vision for a decarbonized power supply and
transport sector by 2050. Let us not forget that the system we have in place today is largely a result of
technologies and decisions from 40 years ago, or even more, so our 2050 timescale is not as ambitious as
it sounds. It simply reflects the reality of how energy systems develop.
To get there, the commission is pursuing a number of interrelated priorities: to implement fully and
effectively an internal market in Europe; to enforce renewables and greenhouse gas emission targets and
strengthen the legislative framework to give greater certainty to investors; to create a solid framework for
new network infrastructure investments; to promote greater collaboration and cohesion in research,
including industry-led initiatives; to boost energy efficiency, notably in buildings, appliances, and trans-
port; and develop partnerships with other countries, both producers and other consuming nations.
It is vital to inform, involve, educate, and motivate the widest possible public. Every citizen can play a
part in the low-carbon revolution.
This book is therefore both timely and important. It is also highly educational. It can help us better
understand the opportunities and challenges renewable energy creates and learn from the experience of
others. In this way, we will all, whether in politics, business, education, or at home, be better equipped to
make, with confidence, the vital decisions that will lead to the energy system we seek for the future—a
system that is at once secure, sustainable, and economically robust.
European Union Energy Commissioner