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Policy News, BB200606

Future Finnish EU Presidency sums up its energy priorities for EWEA

30.01.2007

A month before the official start of the Finnish Presidency, Riku Huttunen, Deputy Director General for Energy at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, talked to EWEA about his priorities on energy issues.

Interview:

EWEA: In a month you will take over from the Austrian presidency and lead the European Council of Ministers until December 2006. Could you summarise Finnish priorities on energy?

Riku Huttunen: We have already established preliminary priorities but we are waiting for the end of the Austrian presidency to finalise them. We first need to know where we will be in terms of progress in the debates. As you may know, important questions are still pending and will be discussed in June. I am thinking for instance of the ‘external relations’ issue that the current energy debate is raising.

Our preliminary priorities are to:

Reach the effective implementation of a European internal market for electricity; Make progress in the energy efficiency debate, taking the Action Plan that the Commission will issue during the summer as a basis for Council discussion in November; Make progress in the renewable energy debate. More precise goals are yet to be determined. The main proposals from the Commission will come only at the end of the Finnish presidency/beginning of the German term;

Strengthen external relations policy in terms of the energy issue, although I cannot give you more details at the moment. We would first like to see what will happen in the June summit over the question of Russian energy supplies. But I can tell you that Finland will have as a priority to pursue this important issue.

EWEA: What is your position on the Green Paper the EC issued three months ago? And would you like to end up with a White Paper on Energy?

RH: Finland thinks that the Green Paper is a quite good document. We share the global view of the Commission. What we like most are two things – the approach of the Commission to first discuss with the Member States and third parties before choosing orientations and secondly, the chapter on external relations, which is a new and important element in the energy debate.

Concerning a White Paper, we already know that we won’t have one. The Commission will instead issue a Road Map next spring, after the Finnish presidency. We agree on this process; Europe needs a timetable and a strategic document to take these discussions forward.

EWEA: Europe is currently debating the percentage of energy that should come from renewables. The last Spring Council spoke about 15% renewables by 2015 and the European Parliament has supported a 20% target by 2020 for many years. Will the issue of targets for renewables be part of the Finnish Presidency’s work programme? What target is Finland pushing for?

RH: Finland is not pushing for any target. In the renewables field, we are not in a hurry. Before setting targets we need a strong and deep analysis of what the possibilities are for renewables. So we are not in favor of any targets before the Commission has analysed the sector and we have a clear picture of the possibilities.

I also think that the challenges included in the Renewables Directive (22% of electricity supply by 2010) are already hard enough for Europe. I’m confident that Finland can achieve them but these objectives are sufficient for now.

EWEA: Wind power has received 0.03% of all IEA government energy research expenditure since 1974, while nuclear power received 60% in the same period. Is that a reasonable allocation of research funds?

RH: Yes I know that this is the case, but in Finland the subsidies allocated to renewables are much higher than that. In our country, nuclear receives research funds for nuclear safety and waste management studies, whilst renewables receive mainly investment aid – as well as research funds.

EWEA: Do you agree with the need for a European Technology Platform for Wind Energy under the EU 7th Research Framework programme, and for a general emphasis on funding for renewable energy?

RH: I think that if a European Technology Platform is a need for the wind industry, yes we should make it happen. Concerning FP7 itself, we are currently happy with the Commission’s proposal as it is.

EWEA: At a national level, you have been through some difficult times with your decision to build a new nuclear power station. What are the Finnish views on the future of nuclear energy at a European level, and in Finland itself?

RH: First of all, I think that every Member State has to decide in which energy sources it will invest. Every country is responsible for its energy choices; that it is how it works now and how it should continue. Everyone in Europe agrees on that. Discussion on nuclear energy does not look fruitful at a European level.

For Finland, it is important to note that now we are building the new nuclear unit, public opinion is quiet positive about it. The discussions you are referring to happened before the project really started.

As for future nuclear developments in Finland, the initiative has to come from the industry. Even if it is a political decision in the end, it starts with an application from the nuclear industry. Politicians will then analyse the project, and decide on a case by case basis.

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