The global focus on reducing greenhouse gases and promoting renewable energy cannot be ignored in today’s business environment. Whether your business deals directly in energy or not, EU green policy-making is likely to affect your costs: transport, shipping, heating, electricity - all are ultimately affected by EU legislation on energy and climate change.

In March 2007, the Council of the European Union agreed a new Energy Policy. This Policy focuses in particular on the reduction of greenhouse gases and on the promotion of renewable energy, biofuels and energy efficiency. Two years later, in April 2009, the EU finalised various legislative measures to implement the new Policy. These are collectively known as the Climate Change and Energy Package, or the “20-20-20 Package”. Part of the 20-20-20 Package is the Renewable Energy Directive 2009 (“the 2009 Directive”).

The transposition of the EU Renewable Energy Directive 2009 (Directive 2009/28/EC) is an important development in this area that businesses cannot afford to ignore. We can advise on the issues specific to your business.  The 2009 Directive was transposed into national law by the European Communities (Renewable Energy) Regulations 2011 (the “Regulations”) on 28 March 2011, supplemented by the Sustainable Energy Act 2002 (Section 8 (2)) (Conferral of Additional Functions — Renewable Energy) Order 2011. The Directive repealed certain provisions of the Renewable Energy Directive 2001 and the Biofuels Directive 2003, and will repeal and replace those Directives in their entirety from 1 January 2012.

Annex 1 of the 2009 Directive, as transposed by section 4(1) of the Regulations, sets renewable energy targets for Member States to achieve by 2020. Firstly, 20% of energy consumption across the EU (electricity, heat and transport fuels) is to come from renewable sources by 2020. Secondly, 10% of each Member State’s transport energy consumption is to come from renewable sources. The 20% EU-wide target is broken down into individual national targets that differ between Member States. For example, Ireland’s target for renewable energy usage for 2020 is 16%, whereas outliers Sweden and Malta have targets of 49% and 10%, respectively. These targets take into account figures from the baseline year of 2005, when, for example, 3.1% of Ireland’s energy came from renewable sources.

Moreover, new public buildings (and existing public buildings undergoing major renovation) must be exemplary in their use of renewable energy, and this is given effect by section 3 of the Regulations.

Under the provisions of section 3 of the Sustainable Energy Act 2002 (Section 8 (2)) (Conferral of Additional Functions - Renewable Energy) Order 2011, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland is vested with more expansive functions than before, relating to training, promotion and encouragement of renewable energy use by public bodies and promotion of certain renewable technology.