Renewables May Not Meet Their Target in Europe

Renewable energy will not meet the targets set by the European Union unless policy changes are made, according to one of the top officials on the continent.

LONDON, England, UK, 2001-05-27 [ ] “Renewables are presently growing at a faster rate than in the past times, that is true, but not enough to reach the ambitious goals recently set, and less so with an increase in consumption which is simply too high due to the failure of energy conservation measures and to the lacking improvement of energy efficiency,” says Juan Fraga, General Secretary of EUFORES, the European Forum of Renewable Energy Sources. “Proactive policies are needed that foster an increased deployment and market penetration of renewables, as well as a market with fair competition rules, represented by allowing transparency and true accounting of all the costs involved in the whole energy production, transportation and consumption process.” “It is more important than ever that the EU shows strong political willingness to support renewables, and thus to increase significantly their market penetration,” he says in a paper presented on the EnergyResource2001 conference sponsored by the World Energy Council and the British RMR firm. “Renewable energy sources have a crucial role to play in achieving the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and environmental protection, while ensuring the security of energy supply and contributing to economic development and employment creation.” “If the EU fails in this task, a great opportunity will be lost to switch to a truly sustainable energy model, both in environmental and economic terms.” The “urgency and seriousness” of the need to adopt renewable energy remains despite the failure last year of the climate change conference (COP6) in The Hague, and the “discouraging news” that the United States will not support the Kyoto protocol on GHG emissions, adds Fraga, who is a member of the European Commission’s DG TREN Consultative Committee on Energy. When the European Parliament set a target in 1994 of 12 percent from renewables by 2010, “present growth rates were simply disregarded as unrealistic” but renewables now represent “a key element of the present and future EU energy strategy” due to their contribution to GHG reductions and their environmental protection, as well as their potential as a employment sector. “Not only are renewable energy sources, along with energy efficiency, crucial to the achievement of environmental targets such as the Kyoto commitments, but their indigenous and decentralised character can also contribute to increasing the security of supply in Europe, reducing dependency on fossil fuels imports and the risks associated with shortages or price instability,” he explains. A recent study by EUFORES showed that renewables could create 900,000 net new jobs by 2020, with much of it in peripheral and rural areas. “Technologies are mature enough to compete in the market, especially if the external costs of energy, such as environmental damage, price volatility, security of supply, employment creation, etc, are taken into account,” he explains. “This definitely would make many renewable energy technologies more competitive than conventional technologies without any support.” Development has been uneven, both among different renewable technologies and between different countries and regions throughout Europe. “The true potential of renewables is far from being tapped,” he notes. “There are still many barriers preventing market breakthrough of renewables.” Despite liberalization of the electricity sector, the energy market “is still very distorted, and this situation will persist as long as external costs resulting from the whole energy cycle are not fully taken into consideration or, even worse, are passed on precisely just to those customers that choose energy sources who have minimal or none external costs.” “It is necessary to establish a level playing field if renewable energies are to be given a chance to compete in a fair market,” says Fraga. Among the factors that would increase the adoption of renewables are the implementation mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol “where renewables and efficiency are of the few really effective measures to achieve the commitments of the EU” and the proposals for harmonization of energy taxation and of an EU carbon levy. The delayed proposal for continental mechanisms to include external environmental, social and economic costs from the energy lifecycle is needed, as well as the creation of a European Charter for Sustainable Energy (EURENEW) to set up a common framework for the development of renewables.
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