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European renewables R&D set for 'multi-billion euro' increase

EUROPE: The European Commission has announced a significant rise in the amount of money available for research and development of low-carbon technologies, as part of its 2020 strategy to drive the European economy.

Barroso: promises greater spend on renewables R&D
Barroso: promises greater spend on renewables R&D

EU President Jose Manuel Barroso has promised a "greener low-carbon" economy as part of the 2020 strategy.

He said that to achieve this goal, the EU should increase its  research and development spending from below 2% of GDP today to 3% representing an increase of around €120billion to €367billion. EU GDP in 2009 was €12,256.48billion.

The EC suggests that a significant chunk of this cash is invested in "developing cleaner, low carbon technologies that will help our environment, contribute to fighting climate change and create new business and employment opportunities".

The 2020 strategy also decrees that if EU is to retain its lead in renewables technology it must also improve its competitiveness against the US and China. This view was backed up earlier this week by Vestas CEO Ditlev Engel.

It likewise highlights the need for the EU to meet its goals to ensure financial savings, energy security and create jobs. According to the EC around 600,000 EU jobs could be created by meeting its aim to supply 20% of its energy needs from renewables.

Barroso said the crisis had resulted in the need to create "a new economic model based on knowledge, low-carbon economy and high employment levels".

The strategy should be approved by EU heads of state and government at the end of March. However, the plan has been met with derision by environmentalists.

John Hontelez, secretary general of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said the strategy offered "nothing new" as regards climate change and energy efficiency, claiming "the 20% greenhouse gas reduction target, with its wide open loopholes, is not going to trigger real innovation".

The WWF was equally scathing about the EC’s lack of ambition. "We cannot be saddled for the next 10 years with a strategy which is out of date before the ink is even dry, said Tony Long, director of WWF's European Policy Office.

Luxembourg MEP Claude Turmes said the 2020 vision failed to show the EU had the ambition to develop the region as a "technological leader". He said the EU needed to better define its R&D priorities and ensure its funds are only allocated where environmental and social conditions are fulfilled.

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