EUROPE BOOSTS RENEWABLES

The European Union is strongly supporting renewables in its Fourth Framework Programme. The Non Nuclear budget gets only 20% less than nuclear energy does for research, technology and demonstration -- and nearly half the amount is allocated to renewables. Wind will be competing with the other renewable energy technologies for its share of the budget under the Thermie and Joule programmes. Thermie will face the toughest battle for funding. A reduction in its renewables budget seems to be a consequence of the Maastricht Treaty where Thermie was moved from under energy to under a research umbrella. The European Parliament is battling for more funding for Thermie. Under the Fourth Framework Programme representatives of the wind industry will have more say in the allocation of subsidies to projects following changes in decision making priorities.

Emphasis on energy research and development (R&D) in the European Union is swinging towards renewables. With the approval on September 29 of the EU's Fourth Framework Programme of Research and Technological Development, total spending on non nuclear energy technology R&D has been hiked to ECU 1002 million over the next four years -- with nearly half this sum allocated specifically to renewables.

In round figures the EU's total R&D budget for the next four years is ECU 12.3 billion, of which ECU 2.3 billion is allocated to energy. Of this sum, nuclear gets a little less than ECU 1.3 billion, with non nuclear allocated some ECU 1 billion, or ECU 967 million after fixed costs have been deducted.

The fourth and third framework programmes are not directly comparable; far reaching reorganisation of EU budgets included moving the Thermie non nuclear energy demonstration programme in under the wing of R&D. But the fact that non nuclear now gets just 20% less than nuclear under the Fourth Framework Programme is a telling sign of the times. The boost to the programme tips the energy political balance in Europe in the direction of renewables, continuing the trend started with the introduction of the Altener programme in 1992 (Windpower Monthly, September 1992). Altener set specific targets for renewables in the European communities for the first time, including a wind target of 8000 MW by 2005. The new energy R&D budget under the Fourth Framework Programme now backs Altener's aims with hard cash to support technology development.

While many would argue that nuclear, supposedly a mature technology, still receives far too much support, the trend is now towards funding increases for renewables. Significantly, renewable energy is awarded the lion's share of the new non nuclear budget: 45% will go to renewables, 27% to the rational use of energy and 28% to solid fuel and hydrocarbons (see chart). Renewables have never before received such a relatively large slice.

As the leading renewables technology in Europe, wind stands to be a major beneficiary. It will be competing against other renewable energy technologies for its share of the around ECU 354 million allocated over the next four years to renewables R&D and demonstration projects specifically under the Joule and Thermie programmes. Joule is administered by the European Commission's Directorate General for Science Research and Technology (DG XII) and Thermie by the Directorate General for Energy (DG XVII).

Research wins over demonstration

The big winner under the Fourth Framework Programme is the Joule programme's renewables budget. Under Joule, renewables have been awarded fully 28% of the non nuclear budget -- the largest allocation of the six budget sectors (see chart). The Joule renewables allocation has rocketed from about ECU 98 million over the past five years to a total of ECU 270 million (ECU 220 million after compulsory actions) for 1995-1998, reported DG XII's Arthouros Zervos at the European Wind Energy Association conference (EWEC) last month in Greece. Wind is likely to fare well in the distribution of the renewables budget. Under the Third Framework Programme, wind projects in Joule won about 20% of the total Joule budget, some ECU 19 million, he said. If they win the same portion in the new programme, wind research will get as much as ECU 44 million.

The Thermie programme, however, has been severely penalised. Under the Fourth Framework Programme, its four year budget for 1995-1998 has been cut to roughly ECU 500 million from more than ECU 700 million for the five years from 1990-1994. Renewables get no more than 17% of the budget, some ECU 134 million compared with ECU 184.1 million in the previous framework programme's Thermie. This amounts to an annual level of spending for the next four years of some ECU 33.5 million, to be divided among wind, solar, biomass, small hydro and geothermal, compared with ECU 36.8 million under the Third Framework Programme.

The reason for the reduction of Thermie's renewables budget seems to have more to do with a reorganisation at the Commission than a deliberate policy decision. Following the Maastricht Treaty, Thermie now falls under the auspices of "research" in the EU and no longer under "energy." For a programme which has long hovered on the border between "research" and "market stimulation" the consequence of the reorganisation for Thermie was predictable. In Euro-speak, a major role of the programme was "dissemination" of technology advances through replication of projects using new technology. But this dissemination role does not fit comfortably under a research umbrella and it has largely been ignored under the Fourth Framework Programme for R&D.

Crucial battle for Thermie II

It is not a situation that Enzo Millich, head of hydrocarbons and renewables at DG XVII, is happy with. At the EWEC conference he advised delegates to lend their weight to a proposal, strongly backed by the European Parliament, that Thermie's dissemination role be continued with a separate allocation of ECU 200 million under the EU's energy budget, not its research budget. So far Britain, Germany and France have refused point blank to countenance this suggested extension of Thermie's dissemination activities, claiming that the Fourth Framework Programme provides sufficient support.

For wind energy the outcome of the final vote on Thermie II, due when the EU's energy ministers meet at the end of this month, is important. Observers of the EU's wind programmes point out that Thermie's dissemination role is probably even more crucial for wind energy than its funding of demonstration projects. Wind has already demonstrated its success. Replication of this success in EU member countries is now needed, especially where wind energy development has not yet seriously started, they argue.

The European Parliament agrees. "What we really need, for example, is a targeted marketing programme for renewable energies, not least because, once again, technologies developed in Europe will otherwise be mass produced in the Far East or the USA," says Rolf Linkohr, Member of the European Parliament and Rapporteur for the Fourth Framework Programme for R&D. "The research budget is too small for this," he adds, arguing for a complementary programme, not funded from the research budget, "to encourage the spread of new technologies that cannot be covered by the Fourth Framework Programme."

More outside influence

In general the opinions of outside experts on the selection of proposals for support under both the Thermie and Joule programmes will now carry far more weight -- a direct consequence of the Maastricht Treaty and the reorganisation of the Commission's programmes. Currently, Joule's advisory committee can only give its opinion on selections and Commission officials are at liberty to ignore this. Thermie's advisory committee has a little more influence -- its views must be taken into the "utmost account" by the Commission, although officials still have a free hand to decide who gets what.

From next year, though, the Commission's power is far more limited. The advisory committees to both programmes, made up of representatives from member states, have been given a greatly increased status in the decision making process. From now on the opinion of each committee is "compulsory," explains Millich. "The Commission cannot take a decision which is different to that of the advisory committee," he says. Decisions are also to be subject to a majority vote. Effectively these changes increase national control of spending and allow the views of the wind industries in each member country to be heard through their elected representatives. If used properly, this influence should encourage better and more informed use of EU wind energy budgets.

Joule and Thermie details

With the adoption of the Fourth Framework Programme taking place just days before EWEC, delegates at the event were some of the first to learn of its likely impact on wind R&D. Zervos outlined some of the main points of the Joule programme for the next four years. While the technical development focus of Joule will continue, there will be a new emphasis on highly innovative technology, he said. Novel principles will be sought for: the Wind Energie Grosse Anlagen (WEGA) programme for development of a new generation of large scale turbines; the design of smaller turbines; designs adapted to specific conditions such as offshore sites, difficult terrain, and high or low wind speeds; and stand alone systems, particularly for desalination. DG XII's programme will also seek projects addressing integration of wind energy into power supply systems now and in the future. This is apparently an extension of the utility issues sub programme under Joule, introduced in 1992 (Windpower Monthly, October 1992).

Speaking on the Thermie budget so far approved under the Fourth Framework Programme, DG XVII's Alex Kotronaros said particular emphasis would be given proposals for projects using wind turbines at both ends of the size scale. He also outlined the following aims of the new programme reduction of the cost of wind energy; greater public acceptability; demonstration of projects in unconventional sites; greater understanding of the interaction of wind plant with the grid; and installation of megawatt wind turbines.

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