EU Blackout Response Echoes U.S. Reaction

Hermann Scheer, President of Eurosolar, and a previous RE Insider on, responded negatively to a recent European Commission draft proposal on securing the continent’s electrical supply. Much like a similar situation in the United States, a new EU proposal stemming from recent blackouts in Europe largely ignores the added security and energy benefits that could be achieved with a real push for renewable energy, Scheer said.

Berlin, Germany – December 19, 2003 [] The draft ‘Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning measures to safeguard security of electricity supply and infrastructure investment’, ignores the true causes of the growing insecurity of European electricity supply, said Scheer, who added security of electricity supply can only be obtained with a complete shift to renewable energies. The European Commission is presently engaged in a largely closed-door process of preparing a proposed directive on the security of energy supply, in line with its prior endeavors to create an over-centralized European energy policy, Scheer said. Due to ongoing disagreement between DG TREN and other DGs, no final agreement has been reached so far, but the proposal should be expected to be presented before the European Council meeting this month. “The draft proposal is an enormous step backwards for European energy policy,” Scheer said. “The Commission abuses consumer’s and industry’s fears after the recent black-outs in Italy, Denmark/Sweden and the UK and clouds their real causes. In a complete perversion of the concept of ‘security of electricity supply’, the proposal would cement power generation from exhaustible fossil and nuclear resources. However, citizens both want and expect renewable energies to make up the main share of a secure future energy supply.” This echoes a similar situation in the United States where policy and infrastructure changes proposed after the August blackouts in the Eastern states largely ignored diversifying the electrical supply with additional renewable energy capacity. “Not only does the Commission’s proposal completely ignore the inexhaustible potential of renewable energy sources,” Scheer said. “Its provisions will be harmful to the development of renewable energy sources in Europe, despite continuing rhetorical lip-service to the cause of renewable energies. The draft prepares for a new priority for investment in centralized old-fashioned conventional power plants (300 additional GW in 750 large new power plants) to be built according to the Commission in a quasiemergency scenario, possibly in the hope of avoiding debate and transparency.” In recital (9) the draft demands ‘an appropriate regulatory framework for investment, which creates regulatory certainty and incorporates a reasonable rate of return on investments’ for transmission system operators. This rhetoric, says Scheer, could be used to constrain and prevent the spreading of the most successful legal instrument for the promotion of renewable energies: the feed-in model, where the grid owner is obliged to buy renewably generated electricity at a fixed rate. “The true causes of the insecurity of European electricity supply are – the limited availability of the fossil and uranium resources it is based on, – its devastating effect on the atmosphere and the human environment, – its antiquated infrastructure of centralized large power plants, – the ignorance of the tremendous indigenous potential of renewable energies,” Scheer said. The limited availability of fossil and nuclear resources causes erratic economic and political dependencies from unstable regions, which will grow as resources become scarcer. The environmental impact goes so far that the fossil-nuclear energy system has been digging its own grave by heating up the global climate: Scheer also site fossil and nuclear plant’s voracious appetites for cooling water as integral problem, exacerbated by last summer’s particularly hot temperatures. “Part of the reason for the Italian blackout was the scarcity of cooling water caused by the exceptionally hot summer,” Scheer said. “Also in Germany and France, many nuclear power plants had to reduce their effect, because their massive water needs could not be met. Eurosolar and others have repeatedly demonstrated how these problems can be overcome by a complete transition to decentralised renewable energy sources. Eurosolar called upon Members of the European Parliament and on Member States to reject the Commission’s proposal. Instead, they said the EU should take the following measures to promote the transition into a solar economy based on decentralised electricity generation from renewable energy sources: – Guaranteed feed-in tariffs (net-metering) for renewable energies, based on the successful example in Germany and Spain – A complete tax exemption for all biofuels for 20 years, which would immediately open the door for a broad market introduction – Research into renewable energy and energy storage technologies. – The replacement of the EURATOM with a EURENEW treaty to boost renewables (see documentation of EURENEW conference on Eurosolar’s Web site)
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