Call for much more renewables -- Political pressure in Europe

The European Parliament has upped the pressure on the European Commission to produce more ambitious proposals for renewable energy by voting in favour of a binding 20% target for renewables' share of energy by 2020. The parliamentarians adopted a report calling for a renewable energy strategy to take the EU beyond its current target of 12% of energy from renewables by 2010.

The report, by Green member of parliament Claude Turmes, reaffirms the vote by the previous parliament in 2004 for a 20% renewables target by 2020. With more "systematic" policies to encourage renewables and increase energy efficiency, the target could rise to 25% of Europe's energy, the report adds.

It also calls on the commission, the EU's executive, to set mandatory national targets for three sectors: electricity, transport fuels, and heating and cooling. These should include an "ambitious but realistic" target for ultra-low or non-CO2 emitting and CO2 neutral technologies to supply 60% of EU electricity. The report stresses that the electricity market is "still suffering from a number of serious distortions." In its vote, parliament insists that the commission puts forward legislation to end the distortions which penalise renewables.

Among other recommendations from the parliament are tax cuts to encourage renewables, an increase in the research and development budget for renewables in the next EU framework program for research, adoption of the EC's biomass action plan, more deployment of solar thermal stations in southern Europe and a co-ordinated major project for North Sea wind power.

Testing credentials

The vote was the first real test of the green credentials of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) elected last year. With the balance of power now tipped in favour of right wing Conservatives, the industry had feared that the parliament's enthusiasm for renewables would be lessened. "It is the first time the new European Parliament has voted specifically on renewable energy," says Christian Kjær from the European Wind Energy Association. "The adoption of the Turmes report by an overwhelming majority shows the parliament's continued determination to promote renewables and to address the many market distortions and structural deficiencies in the European power markets. These continue to form a serious barrier to the development of renewables in most member states."

The vote comes just one month before the EU commission is due to report on Europe's progress towards meeting its 2010 renewables target. This will include an analysis of the effectiveness of the different national support mechanisms. With its expected conclusion that several countries are likely to fail to meet their non-binding aims for renewables, the parliamentary vote will strengthen the commission's arm if it proposes setting mandatory targets.

"We have sent an unmistakable request to the commission to come up with strong new legislation and pave the way for a stable legislative framework for the next 15 years," says Claude Turmes. The vote was timely, he says, given that oil prices are predicted to stay high over coming months. "By 2020 renewables have the potential to be as important an energy source in the EU as gas and oil are."

More pressure

Hard on the heels of the vote in the European Parliament, members of the national parliaments of more than 20 countries across Europe have added their voice to that of MEPs in calling for a coherent and comprehensive renewable energy and energy efficiency strategy (REEES).

Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, the cross-party group of members of parliament (MPs) urged a mandatory target of 25% of energy from renewable sources in the EU by 2020. This would be a first step towards the eventual aim of 100% energy supply from renewables. Many of the MPs' other demands echoed the recommendations in the Turmes report adopted by the European parliament. The event in Edinburgh was organised by the European Forum for Renewable Energy Sources (EUFORES).

Mechtild Rothe, MEP and president of EUFORES, calls the declaration of Edinburgh a "milestone" for pushing renewables and energy efficiency. "We as political decision makers have to set the right framework now to further support this development at the European and national level. Only renewables can provide Europe with clean energy in the near future. Sooner or later everyone has to take into account that fossil fuels are running out," she says.

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