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Policy News, BB200711

Commission’s technology plan brings hope but lacks clarity

12.12.2007

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) welcomed the European Commission’s recent proposal on a Strategic Energy Technology plan. While the Plan acknowledges that wind energy is a key technology for meeting the 20% renewables target, it still needs better focus, greater clarity and to set priorities.

The Commission’s proposal, presented on 22 November, should be complemented by additional and more strategic measures and policies as suggested by the Portuguese presidency in its vision paper. These include a clearer distinction between the technologies already available today or in the final stages of development (onshore and offshore wind, 1st and 2nd generation biofuels, renewable heating and cooling, PV, concentrated solar power and smart grids) and technologies with an impact beyond 2020 (hydrogen and fuel cells, CCS, Gen-4 nuclear fission).

“The Commission’s Plan is a good basis for discussion. If complemented by the visions and additional measures presented by the Portuguese Presidency, there is hope for a positive outcome. Achieving the 20% renewable target depends on this, as does Europe’s future welfare. Europe has to prioritise research investments now in efficiency, renewable energy technologies and infrastructure if we are to emerge successfully from the looming climate and energy crisis while reaping the commercial benefits of technology exports,” commented Christian Kjaer, EWEA Chief Executive.

EWEA agrees with the Commission that current energy research efforts – one-fourth of the level in 1980 - must be increased dramatically but regrets that the Plan does not address the continued need to reverse the irrational imbalances in national and EU research budgets. The wind energy sector would have liked to see a more detailed and clear financial strategy and priority-setting that takes into account past allocations of R&D funds between the different energy technologies. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), less than 1% of government research expenditure since 1974 has been allocated to wind power, while nuclear power has received 60% or $175 billion.

EWEA supports the Commission’s twin-track approach of research to lower cost and enhance performance combined with measures to stimulate market development. EWEA also supports the Commission’s call on the Member States, European Parliament and industry to develop collaborative research and better cooperation. The proposal for public and private partnerships to be launched in 2008 in the wind and electricity grid sectors could be another step in the right direction, but needs more clarity.

However, the proposal’s aim to “double the power generation capacity of the largest wind turbines” needs refinement. The size of individual wind turbines is not a goal in itself. It must be accompanied by measures to continue improvement in performance and reliability.

Wind energy research is already the chief focus of the European Wind Energy Technology Platform (TPWind), which works to identify research priorities in order to lower wind energy costs. At its recent General Assembly in Brussels on 12-13 November, the seven TPWind working groups – which specialise in areas such as wind technology, market, policy, environment and research funding – created lists of key research actions up to 2030. The groups will explore the state of play of their particular sectors, and determine what budget they need to meet their scenario for 2030. Finally, TPWind will identify what impact will be had on overall wind energy costs.

The strategies and scenarios provided by the working groups will be brought together in two different documents which will become the main TPWind outcomes: the Strategic Research Agenda and Market Deployment Strategy documents.

The Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) addresses technological improvement. Through it, TPWind will encourage the industry, governments and the EU to intensify their research efforts – efforts that, for a knowledge-intense product such as wind turbines, need to exceed the overall Barcelona objective of 3% of European GDP being spent on research. The SRA will focus on the long-term scenarios for technology development, encouraging the industry, member states and political decision-makers to use long term research findings when they develop new prototypes.

The Market Deployment Strategy (MDS) will present the optimum future market conditions for large-scale deployment of wind technology. Through the MDS, Member States, EU institutions, research institutions and the industry will be able to tailor market-related policy development to the changing needs of the technology as it matures.

Drafts of these two documents will be made in time for TPWind’s second General Assembly, which will be held on 13-14 February, 2008, and the results of TPWind’s meetings promoted during the European Wind Energy Conference, which will take place in March 2008 in Brussels, Belgium.

TPWind’s work will contribute to many areas of the SET-plan, such as preparing community and national action, the proposed EU Energy Technology Conference, trans-European energy networks and the potential High Level Group on financing low carbon technologies.

(1): Vision paper from the Portuguese presidency for EU Strategic Energy Technology Plan, to be debated at the Energy Council on 3 December: click here

TPWind website
Contact TPWind secretariat
Read proposed SET-plan

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