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New EC target for renewables

The European Commission has planned to more than double the use of renewable sources in the European Union by 2010. The target, which forms a main part of the EC's Altener programme, is for renewables to cover 12% of the EU's primary energy demand within the next 13 years. The target was announced at an Altener conference held in November in Sitges, Spain.

The European Commission has extended its target for renewable energy with plans to more than double the use of renewable sources in the European Union by 2010. The target, which forms a main part of the EC's Altener programme, is for renewables to cover 12% of the EU's primary energy demand within the next 13 years.

The extended Altener target was announced at a three day Altener conference held in Sitges on Spain's eastern seaboard in late November. The EU Commission's deputy director for energy, Fabrizio Caccia, stressed that his department's strategy would principally be based on taxing non renewable energy systems, allowing for greater parity between the prices currently paid for renewables and the traditional forms of energy production.

Only days after the announcement, the energy ministers of European Union member states met in Brussels on December 3 to openly debate Europe's renewable energy strategy. They were met by representatives of Greenpeace who offered ministers and EC civil servants coffee made in its travelling solar energy kitchen. "The EU's commitment to renewable energy at present is completely inadequate," according to Kirsty Hamilton, climate campaigner at Greenpeace. Greenpeace says the Altener target does not go far enough and is demanding a 20% cut of EU's CO2 emissions by 2005 to prevent what it calls "dangerous climate change."

When Altener was introduced in 1992, it set a target for renewables to meet 8% of demand by 2005. Today about 6% of all energy in Europe comes from renewable sources, according to the EC. Altener promotes the use of renewables and provides cash to projects aimed at facilitating their development.

"The prices now paid for traditional energy systems do not reflect the environmental impact caused," said Caccia in Sitges, adding that a tax on traditional forms of energy production would encourage people to turn to renewables. Other actions, according to the Altener strategy, include more funds for research into renewable energy systems and national programmes by EU states -- estimated at some ECU 190 million -- which would create direct employment for 500,000 people across Europe, cut energy imports by 19% and reduce CO2 emissions by 16% compared to 1990 figures. Unless action was taken now renewables would not represent more than 8% of total power consumption in the EU by the year 2010, delegates were told.

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