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Wind is tipped for a period of strong growth into the next century in a new report from the European Commission (EC). Along with biomass and geothermal energy, wind is expected have the strongest growth of the renewables, according to Panorama of EU Industry 1994, the EC's fifth annual survey of European Union economic sectors. Hydro is the only renewable for which the report's prognosis is poor. For political, economic and environmental reasons, further development of hydro will be severely limited. Demand for nuclear fuel will peak in the 1990s and then quickly flatten out at a lower level, while natural gas could double its share of power generation within 15 years. The report points out that the limited development of nuclear and hydro means that conventional thermal generation will have to fill the gap, warning that "In the longer term it is unlikely that emissions of C02 can be stabilised without recourse to greater use of non fossil generating capacity. This may lead to new orders for nuclear power stations early in the next century." In the meantime, the contribution from independent power producers will continue to grow because of the need of many countries to curb public sector borrowing and because technology advances are making integration of small scale plants much easier. Independent production will increase regardless of whether the single electricity market comes fully into force and whether third party access to the grid is mandated, says the report. This is mainly because large end users of electricity recognise the competitive benefits of being able to choose from a range of suppliers.

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