Joule is one of two major programmes which make up the Non Nuclear Energy section of the framework programme's energy budget (see chart previous page), the other programme being Thermie. While Joule concentrates on research and development, Thermie supports projects which demonstrate a technology's viability. Joule projects can receive subsidy of up to 50%.
Of the 938 Joule proposals, 563 were for renewables, 172 for rational use of energy, 136 for fossil fuels, and 67 for energy research and technological development (RTD) strategy. The renewables proposals, which requested nearly ECU 427 million, are split into eight areas with, coincidentally, 143 proposals each from wind and solar, the two largest categories.
After evaluation by technical experts, the 938 projects were reduced to 350, requesting ECU 379 million, far more than the ECU 184 million set aside as the "indicative" budget for this first call for Joule proposals by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. But matching budget requests with budget actualities is a job Commission officials are supposed to be good at.
In the renewables section, 218 of the original 563 proposals made it into the experts' "go" category (see chart page 19), representing some 47% of all Joule projects to get this far. Again, though, the actual cash on the table was a far cry from that being requested. The 218 renewables "go" proposals, including 64 wind and 56 solar projects, were requesting ECU 180.2 million. The budget guideline was ECU 100 million.
It was at this point the Commission stepped in to mix a smaller cake. In the process, however, it reallocated the size of several slices -- actions branded a "scandal" by several Parliament members (MEPs). Renewables ended up with 42%, rational use of energy (RUE) with 35%, fossil fuels with 18% and RTD got the remaining 4%. Previously renewables had 47%, RUE 29%, fossil fuels 19%, while RTD retained 4%.
It is these percentages which MEPs are so angry about. In a commitment between the parliament and the Council of Ministers (made up of heads of government of member countries) it was agreed that 58.6% of the Joule budget should go to renewables, and 62% of the Non Nuclear budget (including Thermie). There is no doubt that it is within the Commission's power to decide who gets what -- selecting projects for funding whether or not it heeds the opinions of its experts in the process. But resizing and reallocating budgets would seem to be another matter.