Bold new EU policy mandates solar panels on all new buildings

A new proposal aimed at eliminating the European Union’s dependence on fossil fuels by 2027 will oblige all new buildings in the bloc to install solar panels. The proposal is part of the European Commission’s REPowerEU plan, which aims to transform Europe’s energy system: ending the EU’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels, which are used as an economic and political weapon and cost European taxpayers nearly €100 billion per year, and tackling the climate crisis.

Three pillars of the plan

The REPowerEU plan consists of three pillars. Concerned with the accelerated roll-out of renewable energy, the first of these pillars includes the “solar rooftop initiative”. The other two pillars of the plan are focused on maximising energy savings and diversifying energy supplies. The plan was conceived in March this year when – in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, called for decreasing dependence on Russian oil, coal, and gas. Later that month, leaders of EU member states, gathered at the European Council meeting, agreed to fully phase out all reliance on Russian fossil fuels as soon as possible. The commission was then tasked with developing a plan to this effect by the end of May.

Requiring an investment of €210bn (£178bn) between now and 2027 from the private and the public sectors across the continent, the plan’s goal is to ultimately save the EU almost €100bn a year. The commission regards the investment demanded by the plan to be a downpayment on the EU’s future security and economic independence from Russian energy imports.

Supercharging the use of renewables to get to 45%

Aside from the mandatory solar panel rollout, the ‘renewable energy’ pillar of the plan also involves revising the commission’s current target for renewable sources. Whereas earlier the commission aspired for renewables to make up 40 per cent of the EU’s energy supplies by 2030, the new goal has now been set to 45 percent. In order to meet this target, the commission is aiming to upscale the EU’s energy capacity across a range of renewable sources. The rate of deployment of heat pumps, the production of domestic renewable hydrogen, as well as wind and solar capacity, will be doubled by 2030, according to the commission’s proposal.

Maximising energy savings in the short, and long term

The commission is considering both long-term and short-term strategies. In the short-term, citizens and businesses alike are encouraged to use public transport, reduce indoor heating temperatures, and minimise air conditioning usage, among other measures. In the long run, policy changes such as lowering VAT rates on energy-efficient heating systems and imposing stricter national energy requirements on new buildings may help cut down on excessive consumption. These strategies are expected to help the commission reach its revised goal for reducing energy consumption by 2030 via energy efficiency, from 9 per cent to 13 per cent.

Diversifying energy supplies

As part of its third pillar, the commission is planning on developing a “joint purchasing mechanism” for the sake of contracting and negotiating renewable hydrogen purchases for member states. In addition, introducing legislative measures to insist on diversifying gas supply over time is also being considered.