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Parliament leans on Commission

A proposal for legislation guaranteeing access to the grid for renewable energy across the whole of Europe has been put forward by the European Parliament's Committee for Energy, Research and Technological Development (CERT). Although the parliament has no competence to formulate EU legislation, CERT is hoping that its proposal will speed the way for a Directive on renewables.

Such a Directive is currently being prepared by the European Commission to establish common rules for renewable energy legislation in Europe's liberalised Internal Energy Market next year. Without such rules the Commission fears that differing systems of support for renewables in separate countries will lead to severe distortions of Europe's energy market and undermine the principles of free competition (Windpower Monthly, April 1998).

The CERT proposal, released in final form on May 20, was drawn up by socialist Member of Parliament (MEP) for Germany Rolf Linkohr. He presented a first draft of it to CERT and the Commission on January 30. An amended version of that document is now scheduled for approval by the entire European Parliament on June 16-17.

According to Manfred Haberzettel from Linkohr's office, the CERT initiative has served to influence and pressure the Commission. He warns that officials would be wise to propose a Directive similar to that suggested by the parliament if they are seeking speedy approval of it.

Linkhor's proposal, "Draft of a report on access to the grid for renewable energy -- initiative for new legislation for creation of a European Directive on feeding electricity into the grid," aims to harmonise existing grid access legislation across Europe. It also suggests a framework for continuing the two "prototype" models of support now operating. These are subsidised payment for renewables, known as the Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT) in Germany, or competitive tender systems such as the UK's Non Fossil Fuel Obligation, which is backed by a levy on all consumers to pay for the extra cost of renewables. "It is also possible that one country uses both systems within its territory," states the proposal.

According to the document, REFIT models operate in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Holland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Finland and Sweden, and competitive tenders in Ireland, Greece, Italy and the UK. Spain and Austria, however, may be about to change camp and introduce competitive systems.

Countries adopting a subsidy system may fix their own price, according to Linkhor's plan. He favours subsidised prices which decline over the pay-back period of the plant, saying this meets the Commission's demand for all energy subsidies to decrease over time. In parallel to subsidies, provision should be made for private investors to pay into competing renewable funds to raise money for renewable energy projects Europe-wide.

Companies generating power from non-renewable sources or drawing power from other sources will have to pay a levy in order to avoid distortions in competition. The proceeds of the levy, and possibly additional government money, would be used to support renewable energy technologies not competitive on the open market.

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