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Gates open for next round of support

The second call for proposals under the European Union Joule-Thermie support programme for non-nuclear energy was issued on September 17. Wind energy proposals are, however, restricted to Thermie demonstration projects only. Wind's profile within the programme has increased significantly in recent years. The second call for Joule proposals is of little significance for wind energy, but a third call (January 17) will concentrate specifically on renewables.

The second comprehensive call for proposals under the current European Union Joule-Thermie support programme for non-nuclear energy was issued on September 17. In this call, however, wind energy proposals are restricted to Thermie demonstration projects only. Joule, which supports research and development initiatives, will be issuing a separate call for proposals in January.

Wind's profile within the Joule-Thermie programme, now part of the EU's huge five year Fourth Framework Programme (1994-1998), has increased significantly in recent years. The wind sector generally concedes that EU support of research, development and demonstration of the technology has been of considerable value over the past decade -- despite ongoing grumbles about misplaced priorities and the selection of dead-end projects for subsidy.

This round of the Thermie demonstration programme is seeking proposals in three areas of wind technology: individual units or wind farms; innovative wind turbines; and "small size" wind turbines. The EU is prepared to contribute up to 40% of the "eligible cost" of a selected project.

Support for wind farms or single units is restricted to a maximum of five turbines, or 2.5 MW (if this limit is reached first). Only the cost of the machines is eligible for support, unless elements of the infrastructure works qualify as innovative. In hybrid systems only the cost related to the wind turbine is eligible. The aim of all proposals must be to "achieve a considerable decrease" of both the investment cost of the plant and production cost of the resulting electricity through use of innovative technology.

For innovative turbines, Directorate General XVII (DG XVII), which administers Thermie, says it will give preference to "more recent and larger size of wind turbine models." With regard to small turbines, innovative technical design or innovative application is sought. Small turbine support, limited to a total of ECU 130,000, is available for installation of up to three 3-30 kW units "for autonomous or grid connected operation for household or agricultural use."

Extra Joule call

This second call for Joule proposals is of little significance for wind energy. Major areas of renewables -- among them wind and solar -- are excluded. Instead a third call for Joule proposals is scheduled for January 17 -- and will concentrate specifically on renewables, states Directorate General XII (DG XII). An initial announcement of this call is due on December 17, with the deadline for proposals in September 1997, according to Energy Centre Denmark.

The current round of Joule is the second this year; an extra sub-call for renewables was issued in January. It was prompted after widespread accusations that renewables were short-changed by the European Commission (EC) -- to the benefit of the fossil fuel industry -- in the first round of Joule under Framework Programme IV (Windpower Monthly, January 1996). Results of the first two rounds of Joule for wind energy have yet to be published by the EC. In the new round, the only areas of Joule support for renewables are renewable energies in buildings, energy from biomass and waste, and energy storage and further options.

It now appears, however, that strenuous efforts are being made by the Commission to ensure that promotion of renewable energy technology is given top priority in the non-fossil fuel arena. Not only are specific calls for proposals being made, but the indicative Joule budget for the new round -- even though it excludes wind and solar and other renewable technologies -- is relatively high at ECU 20-26 million, or around 40% of the total available. Fossil fuels are budgeted at ECU 10-12 million, energy research and technology development (RTD) strategy at ECU 8-10 million, and rational use of energy at ECU 27-32 million -- the largest budget reflecting the priority given to energy saving.

The Commission states it will allocate Joule support "at different rates according to the nature of the project" but this will be no more than 50% of what it deems to be the "eligible cost." Multi-disciplinary approaches will be favoured.

The Joule-Thermie programme is just one element of the European Union's Framework Programme IV (1994-1998) which provides money for four main areas of activity. By far the largest of these is Research and Technology Development and Demonstration (RTDD). Under this RTDD umbrella, the field of energy, split into non-nuclear, nuclear fission safety and controlled thermonuclear fusion, is one of seven topics. Energy has a five year budget of ECU 2.6 billion, the second highest after "information and communication technologies," budgeted at ECU 3.4 billion.

The huge Joule-Thermie programme is described as "a specific RTD programme in the field of non nuclear energy" and has a budget of ECU 1 billion, compared with nuclear's ECU 1.3 billion. Under Thermie, wind energy is one of 17 topics for demonstration projects in the sectors of Rational Use of Energy, Renewable Energy and Sources Fossil Fuels. Thermie proposals must have a "European dimension," be "transnational" and have objectives that are "convincing and feasible." Furthermore, they must be technically and economically viable, but also be "difficult to finance because of major technical and economic risks." The aim must be "subsequent commercial exploitation."

As well as demonstration projects (Type A Actions), Thermie also supports projects which aim to increase the market penetration of technologies, known as Type B Actions.

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