European action plan on the way, EU Energy Commissioner heads legislation initiative

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A new target for raising renewable energy's share in Europe's energy balance and an increase in the amount of electricity from wind and solar sources into the grid are just two of the priorities that Energy Commissioner Christos Papoutsis hopes to see in a new European strategy for renewables.

Papoutsis outlined his priorities in May at the end of a conference in Greece specifically to discuss a new action plan for renewable energies (story page 42). The conference, at Vouliagmeni, near Athens, was called following the publication in November of a discussion paper for an EU strategy on renewable sources of energy. Papoutsis draws ten initial conclusions from the three days of discussions.

Firstly, he notes there has been widespread support for a quantitative target for market penetration by renewables. "I will insist on my proposal for an objective of at least a 12% share of renewable energy sources in our energy balance by 2010," he promises. This will effectively double their share -- currently around 6%. He also pledges to promote specific actions and objectives for each renewable. Starting with PV he proposes a programme to install 500,000 solar roofs and facades in Europe until 2010. Turning to the role of rural and regional authorities, Papoutsis says he will place particular emphasis on the promotion of renewables through his continued support of regional energy centres.

Looking ahead to the opening up of energy markets, he says there must be a significant increase in electricity from wind and solar sources -- and imperfections in the market should be overcome. He is to look at plans for a minimum share of renewable generated electricity in the grid and special tariff agreements. Biomass and biofuels will not lose out either; Papoutsis says that proposals must be developed so that these technologies benefit from restructuring of the common agricultural policy (CAP). "Energy through biomass and biofuels rather than rotting mountains of fruit and butter -- these need to be taken into consideration when funding CAP policy for the future."

Papoutsis identifies financing as major factor for encouraging renewables. He proposes a bigger share of financing from different community sources for the next ten years. Member states should also direct some of the funds from the new tax regime on energy products into renewables. At the same time he is to begin initiatives to encourage the banking sector to finance renewables -- starting with the European Investment Bank.

Further measures outlined by Papoutsis concern continued R&D to lower costs, export promotion, job creation and the need to inform and to raise public awareness. He emphasises that a European strategy must be implemented through national strategies for renewables. "Individual, ad-hoc, occasional measures without an objective and without a strategy will not have real concrete effects," he warns.

Some 70 to 80 written contributions to the debate have been registered by the European Commission. Views put forward by EU institutions and others will be analysed and taken into account. "In June it will then be the commission's task to draw together the substance of the various opinions and draft an action plan for renewable energies," said Armand Colling, head of renewables at the EC's Directorate General for energy, DG XVII. "An action plan that over the coming years should be the guideline for community policy on renewable energy," he added.

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