EU Council Calls for Renewable Energy Strategy

Biomass would play a major role in a renewable energy strategy for the European Union, according to a European Union Council meeting report. Before any specific goals are put to paper, however, the Council stated that investors are going to need some long-term market confidence to inspire actions beyond research and development.

To that end, the Council recommended that the EU develop a strategy for addressing the medium and long-term time frame for renewable energy beyond 2010. The progress of international climate change negotiations should be taken into account while developing the strategy, and in order to reach targets set for renewable electricity in 2020 union wide actions should begin at the end of 2005. A thorough assessment of the progress toward the current 2010 targets should be made that includes the costs and benefits of renewable energy programs from manufacturers to consumers, and progress made in the area of energy efficiency, according to the meeting report. Much of the EUC’s approach to a renewable energy strategy is based on the report that was developed for the International Conference for Renewable Energies, which was held in Bonn, Germany in June 2004. The council’s findings were further substantiated in the European Commission Communication “The share of renewable energy in the EU”, which asserted that sustained national policies have to be in place and implemented to secure the achievement of the 2010 indicative targets. Part of the European Commission’s Communication expressed an intention to develop a European Biomass Action Plan, a suggestion that appeals to the EUC as well. Biomass potential could be particularly effective if used with combined heat and power projects, according to the EUC. Plans for a biomass strategy should be based on scientific data and commercial experiences, the Commission stated. Plans should include analysis of potentials and how biomass can be utilized in a cost effective and sustainable way. Findings from a study based on the aforementioned criteria would be compiled by the Commission and made available to the member states. The plan should deal with the use of biomass in the three areas electricity, heating and cooling, and transport, taking into account potential conflicts and synergies that may arise from the use of biomass for different purposes. Issues such as R & D in biomass, biomass standards, administrative and licensing barriers, sustainable production methods and incentives, availability of biomass in a long term perspective, the possibility to develop recovered fuels based on biomass, developing the fuel supply chain and transparency of biomass markets, and an assessment of possible biomass imports from third countries should be included in the Commission’s report as well. All of these factors should be weighed against developments in the EU agriculture policy and contribute to the development of the EU waste strategy, according to the EUC meeting report. Wind energy is an important part of the EUC’s vision of a renewable energy strategy. Because the wind industry is more established than a biomass industry, however, the council recommended working on infrastructure, and enhanced cooperation and planning between European network operators. The EUC did recognize that member states in the union have already established commitments with respect to electricity from renewable energy sources, and for the use of biofuels or other renewable fuels for transport. But, the council stated, a common goal to increase competitiveness in the renewable energy market through lowering production costs, fostering a supportive atmosphere for research and development, and acting for internalization of the external costs and environmental benefits of all energy sources would help all of the member states achieve their individual goals. Institutional, administrative and technical barriers in the form of “red tape”, network stability, network capacity, cross-border interconnection, and guarantee of origin should be reduced or removed by the member states to facilitate an EU wide renewable energy network, according to the EUC. Even with these suggested changes, the importance of local factors has to be taken into consideration as well during the renewable energy strategy development. “The EU should continue to defend its global leading role with progressive policies and measures,” the European Union Council stated in its meeting report. “Use its influence to prioritize and further strengthen an efficient renewable energy deployment policy in relevant international bodies such as OECD, IEA, World Bank and the “Johannesburg Renewable Energy Coalition – JREC” and use the global increase in the use of renewable energies as a means of making a substantial contribution to climate protection.” The European Union Council (EUC) is the main decision-making body of the European Union, and has the authority to pass laws and coordinate the broad economic policies of the member states, among other responsibilities. Action taken by the Council can take the form of regulations, directives, decisions, common actions or common positions, recommendations or opinions. The Council can also adopt conclusions, declarations or resolutions. When the Council acts as a legislator it is, in principle, the European Commission that makes proposals, and the European Parliament is an active participant in the legislative process. Each member state of the EUC has appointed ministers responsible for different subjects. Presidency of the Council is held for six months by each member state on a rotational basis.
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