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BB200611, Policy News

Energy: Commission Plans New Steps

22.11.2006

The European Commission is currently working on a long-term ‘road map’ for renewable energy sources to be issued by the end of this year or the beginning of 2007, as part of "the most important and ambitious energy package the European Commission has ever presented".

In the framework of the open debate on the European Commission’s Green Paper, A European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and secure Energy, from March 2007, stakeholders expressed their views in a public hearing on the content of the Strategic EU Energy Review that is to be published by the Commission on either 20 December this year or 10 January 2007.

In his opening speech of the hearing, EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs saw the increasing use of renewable energy as a major objective for all EU member states: “Should we agree on a medium-term (2030) and long term (2050) target for low carbon energy in the EU 's overall mix, with an emphasis on this being locally produced?” Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs asked. “Subject to minimum agreed common action to support renewable energy, should the choice of how Member States meet their resulting minimum local low carbon energy objectives in terms of their own energy mix be left to subsidiarity?” he went on.

The long-term Renewables Road Map should provide longer term, more ambitious targets. How high should these targets be and what form should they take, indicative or mandatory, sectoral targets or overall energy, remains largely unclear.

According to the Commissioner, “Europe is the only area in the world putting a price on carbon and we let other regions take the lead in developing the technologies that will exploit the resulting economic opportunities; we need to reverse this, making sure that Europe is the global centre of low carbon research and development.”

Renewable energy sources in general, and wind energy in particular, are large-scale energy solutions: 30% of all electricity generating capacity installed in the EU in the past five years was wind energy; only gas capacity has exceeded wind energy in terms of installation . In 2005, 19% of the electricity needs for Denmark were covered by wind, 8% in Spain (1) and 6% in Germany. The share is growing in other countries and will be more so if current administrative and grid connection barriers are alleviated. Wind energy should have a central role to play in the European energy strategy which hopefully follows from this debate as a short, medium and long term solution to Europe’s energy supply challenges.

And yet, in the past, the EU has already taken the lead in providing solutions to this challenge, including setting ambitious targets for renewables, but the next step must be agreeing on goals which progressively increase the proportion of renewable energy in the overall energy mix.

In the Energy Green Paper, the Renewable Energy Road Map is the only novelty being proposed regarding European Commission renewable energy goals. So far, no concrete details have been given yet but a good starting point for discussion should be the targets proposed by the European Parliament in 2005 of at least 20% renewable share by 2020, to be translated into sectoral targets for electricity, heating and cooling and biofuels. The targets for 2020 should be ambitious, at least 20%, and mandatory. This overall target must be translated into sectoral targets for electricity (e.g. 35% by 2020), heating (e.g. 25% by 2020) and biofuels (e.g. 12% by 2020). Although, targets themselves do not guarantee development they act as important catalysts for development of the necessary frameworks for renewable energy investments.

In addition to the Renewable Energy Road Map, the energy package the European Commission will table (at the latest early next year) should include:

- An EU Strategic Energy Review, that will endeavour to propose a vision – a central European energy objective - that will underpin a European Energy Policy and suggest how to achieve this vision.
- Internal Energy Market Review and the final results of the energy sector enquiry;
- A Priority Interconnection and Infrastructure Plan;
- A Communication on Sustainable Coal; and
- A "PINC" Communication on nuclear energy in the EU as required by the Euratom Treaty.

In addition to these documents the Commission, intends to put forward a Strategic Energy Technology Plan in 2007.

(1) Global figures for large countries like Spain or Germany disguise important contributions of wind at regional levels. For instance, in the well-interconnected Spanish regions of Navarre and La Rioja, the supply of electricity with wind is of 50% approx. every year.

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