BB200609, Policy News
FP7 – Can the Dedicated Budget for Renewables & Energy Efficiency Be Saved?
When the European Parliament voted on 15 June to dedicate two thirds of the non-nuclear energy research budget under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) to renewable energy sources and energy efficiency, it was hoped that renewables research might at last get the kind of support it needs and deserves. The move followed recognition of the fact that renewables research funding has been neglected in recent years.
The European Commission sees things differently from the Parliament and has decided to ignore its decision, not including the amendment (AM320) calling for the dedicated budget for renewables and energy efficiency research in its amended proposal for the programme.
The industry had welcomed the Parliament’s support as a milestone towards cost reductions necessary to keep Europe in the lead of the fastest growing energy technology. The International Energy Agency estimates that research has led to 40% of wind energy’s cost reductions over the last 20 years.
“We are hearing many fine words about the importance of renewables and energy efficiency. Now that decision time has arrived, there is silence. We do not understand the position of the European Commission and its priorities for research over the next seven years” said Christian Kjaer, Chief Executive of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “Last month, the European Parliament expressed the will of European citizens to reverse decades of unbalanced focus on fossil fuel energy research. Europe has the opportunity to move closer to an energy future based on known and predictable costs, derived from clean and indigenous energy sources free of all the security, political, economic and environmental disadvantages associated with the current energy supply structure.”
The three European Council, Parliament and Commission, will meet over the next few weeks in a Trilogue, to discuss the elements of FP7 remaining undecided. The industry hopes that Amendment 320 will feature in their discussions, and that the European Parliament will stick to its guns and continue to support it.
Most importantly, the industry is calling on Member States to voice their concerns. The Parliament’s vote came much later than expected, and after the Council of Ministers had already reached a broad consensus on the principal elements of the programme. Member States whose own industries lead the world in this field must stand up to support the Parliament, and insist the Commission does not overlook the democratic wishes of the European People.
The Parliament agreed that non-nuclear energy research should total €2.4 billion over the seven years of the programme (2007 – 2013). Two thirds of this for renewables and energy efficiency would mean about €226 million per annum.
“Greater funding would help wind technology’s contribution to the Lisbon Strategy” said EWEA’s research policy advisor, Hugo Chandler. “A strong research base is essential for Europe to keep her global leadership in the wind market, worth €12 billion annually and rising fast. It will stimulate private industry to get more deeply involved, and to collaborate more closely with the public sector.”
Parliament has no legislative powers in the area of nuclear energy research, which is expected to receive €580 million per annum over the next five years under a separate Euratom research budget. This point was underlined by Socialist MEP Mechtild Rothe, who said that “this priority for the promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency research is necessary not only for ecological and economic reasons, but also to counter the existing massive subsidies for fossil and nuclear energy”.
Wind energy received minuscule funding for research under the Sixth Framework Programme. The only long term funding was won through the UpWind “integrated project” which kicked off this spring – €14.3 million for the complete programme of four years.
While wind energy technology is broadly closer to the market than other renewable energy technologies, this does not mean that no research and development remains to be done. On the contrary, enormous potential still exists for cost reductions and efficiency gains, not least in offshore wind energy, through new designs, new materials and new manufacturing and testing tools, as well as improved power control.
On 6 June, at the invitation of the European Commission, stakeholders from across the wind energy sector gathered at the Renewable Energy House in Brussels to establish their priorities for wind energy research, identifying five key priorities. These included wind energy systems; integration of wind power into the European power system; testing, standards and certification; external conditions, resource assessment and forecasting; and socio-economic and environmental issues.
|Interview: Mechtild Rothe, MEP |
When the European Parliament voted to dedicate two thirds of the non-nuclear energy research budget to renewable energy and energy efficiency, the crucial amendment was put by Mechtild Rothe, Member of the Socialist group of the European Parliament. EWEA asked her about how this happened.
EWEA: Why did you suggest in this amendment to dedicate two thirds of the non-nuclear energy research budget to renewable energy?
MR: I am convinced that we need a strengthened research on renewable energies to reach our goal of an environmental friendly and competitive energy supply in the future and also to fulfil the Lisbon agenda: more innovation and new jobs! With this amendment on the energy budget of the FP 7, the European Parliament (EP) took the opportunity to decide on the general direction that energy research policy should take until 2013. Taking this clear position on research policy now could shape the energy landscape for many years. A "renewable energy budget" has advantages in terms of transparency for EU citizens and provides re-assurance of the EU's commitment in this field.
But we should also recall that we are only asking for 25% of the energy research budget over the next five years. More than 60% will still go to nuclear energy - and unfortunately the EP has still no legislative power when it comes to nuclear. The two thirds decision is only a tiny step to reverse decades of unbalanced focus on fossil and nuclear energy research.
EWEA: The vote was by no means certain. Can you tell us more about how you gained the support of more than 300 MEPs, from all political groups?
MR: The Socialist group and the Greens supported as a whole, the main part of the Liberals and some MEPs from the European People’s Party supported it as well. We have had a lot of talks in the last weeks and months on this particular amendment and we managed to convince a lot of members across country and party boundaries. Many members were absolutely open to our arguments, some - unfortunately – were not.
EWEA: The European Commission has ignored this amendment in its new proposal. What is your immediate reaction?
MR: Not only the Commission will decide on the FP7 budget, at the end we will all - Parliament, Council and Commission - have to find a common agreement, and the Commission proposal is not the last step. Further negotiations will take place. The clear message from the EP cannot be ignored totally. But it will be difficult of course to get this particular amendment in the final FP 7 program.
EWEA: How do you see the next steps in the story?
MR: We simply have to continue our talks with the Commission and the Council. We have good arguments on our side and I still hope that we can convince some Member States and the Commission. The negotiations between EP, Council and Commission will continue and at the end of the year we will hopefully have a positive result.