Mixed feelings in green lobby

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Reaction to the EU White Paper's action plan for renewables (main story) has been largely positive among environmental lobbyists, though feelings in the wind business are mixed, ranging from satisfaction, through pragmatism, to downright dissatisfaction. Organisations such as Greenpeace have strongly welcomed the document, feeling that it provides a "clear signal" of the EU's determination to promote renewables. While this sentiment is backed by sections of the wind lobby, a main complaint of the document is that it is long on words and short on specifics.

"There are all sorts of things missing that were in the Green Paper. Reference to a percentage obligation has been taken out and there is no mention of tradable permits," says a disgusted Christophe Bourillon of the European Wind Energy Association. "It is another good step in the right direction, but nothing to get excited about. At the end of the day we are quite disappointed."

He points out that nearly all requirements for action are passed down to national governments, a recipe for no new action, or only limited action, he feels. "The actual recommendations are extremely low key compared with the introductory background which is full of good facts and information. This White Paper is all downhill. It starts out on a high note and ends on a low note," says Bourillon.

Such pessimism is not called for this early in the process of having the action plan adopted, according to a British Member of the European Parliament, Eryl McNally. She has followed the progress of the White Paper closely. McNally points out that the Commission has very little room for manoeuvre on renewable energy without the approval of Europe's national energy ministers, and with this in mind the White Paper is as strong as it could be. On the disappearance from the White Paper of market mechanisms to support renewables, like a percentage obligation for clean energy in the supply mix or tradable green credits, she is reassuring. "It could well be that the parliament puts them back. We will certainly make amendments to it," says McNally. These, she adds, could be "along the lines of mechanisms and ways of making it work."

Whether there is yet general agreement in the European wind lobby on which mechanisms should be included in an action plan remains a moot point. Andreas Wagner of Germany's wind association, the Bundesverband Windenergie, does not share EWEA's negative sentiments. "For a Commission document we find the White Paper progressive. Most of the demands made by the European parliament are found in the document. The 12% target set by the energy council in May 1997 has been reaffirmed, fair access to the grid is stressed, the subsidiarity principle gives each member country the flexibility it needs, and the potential to create employment with renewable energies is given the weight it deserves." The Commission has done good work and now member countries must back it up, he says.

Wagner says he is particularly pleased that the basic principles of the German renewable energy feed in tariff (REFIT) are upheld in the White Paper. He also welcomes the Commission's admonition that any changes to policy "should encourage not jeopardise" future renewables development. Overall, "the key elements for an expansion of renewable energies are in the document," concludes Wagner.

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