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Investment: Low funds jeopardise EU renewables plan

EUROPE: The European Parliament has warned in two reports that there must be greater attention and funding dedicated to the wind sector and related infrastructure if it is to contribute fully to a low-carbon energy future.

In the recently submitted National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs), which set out how the 27 EU member states will meet national targets of supplying 20% of all energy from renewables by 2020, wind is frequently cited as the most important source of renewable energy. Nineteen member states had submitted their plans by mid-September.

Wind also looks set to benefit from European Commission (EC) plans to spend EUR115 million on clean-energy projects this year under the European Energy Recovery Programme (EERP) after the parliament's industry, research and energy committee (ITRE) backed the project in September.

Assuming that the plans are approved by the full parliament this month, the money, left over from the original EUR3.98 billion allocated to the EERP, must be spent on green projects before the end of the year.

The EC and parliament agree that funding should go only to measures that have a rapid, measurable and substantial impact on economic recovery, increased energy security and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Projects such as decentralised renewable sources integrated in electrical grids are one of the categories highlighted by the plan.

But Bernd Lange, a member of the European Parliament (MEP), has presented a report on the future of industrial policy, suggesting that more needs to be done if the EU is to fully benefit from wind power. He calls for greater emphasis on green issues, and demands a clearly defined sectoral approach to industrial and energy policies setting out specific targets and expectations. Wind energy, in particular, should have systematic, binding goals placed upon it, he says.

Grid

Meanwhile, Polish MEP Lena Kolarska-Bobinska, the parliament's rapporteur on energy strategy for Europe, has told ITRE that the EU needs massive investment in grid infrastructure. In her report responding to a consultation on the ten-year energy strategy launched by the EC in May, she says: "Any delay in the development of a modern EU-wide electricity grid jeopardises the EU's ambition to achieve the 20% renewables target by 2020."

Kolarska-Bobinska also urges the EU to look at renewable energy plans across borders, rather than nationally, arguing that renewables projects should be based where they are best suited geographically. Likewise, she says, clear criteria are needed when selecting financing for large-scale energy projects to help avoid administrative and budgetary problems delaying projects.

MEPs hope that the report will influence the practical implementation of energy policies, including the upcoming energy infrastructure package for which the EC is expected to publish proposals in November. Kolarska-Bobinska calls on the package to contribute significantly to the construction of interconnection between member states by: removing red tape preventing authorisation for energy infrastructure; prioritising projects and pinpointing investment in the internal energy market; clarifying guidelines to member states on public and EU energy-infrastructure funding; extending financial support for the implementation phase of projects; and creating a model for sharing renewables costs across borders.

These demands are likely to be key to the future of wind power in Europe. The European Wind Energy Association says: "With additional research efforts and significant progress in building the necessary grid infrastructure over the next ten years, wind energy could meet one-fifth of the EU's electricity demand in 2020, one-third in 2030 and half by 2050."

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