Eugene could help promote green energy (courtesy NREL)
A campaign to create a single European standard for ‘green energy’ is being led by WWF, as part of its wider efforts to persuade Europe’s public bodies and businesses to take a lead in switching to ‘green’ electricity.
Launched on June 24, the Eugene standard has been developed over the past two years by a group of European environmental and consumer groups, in response to concern over consumer confusion and dubious environmental credentials for various national labelling schemes in countries that have liberalised their energy markets.
Eugene sets strict criteria that excludes waste incinerators and ensures schemes commit to ‘additionality’, i.e. they contribute to increased green electricity generation over and above existing schemes, or they reduce the environmental impacts of existing hydropower schemes. Only hydropower plants that have met basic ecological criteria at local scale or new plants that have led to a substantial improvement of the local/regional ecological quality, in excess of legal compliance, will be included.
WWF’s renewable energy policy officer, Giulio Volpi, told edie that the nearest approach to the new voluntary Eugene standard is the Forestry Stewardship Council label for sustainable timber which, although being voluntary, has been adopted as a global standard.
As with timber, power generation is not one of the areas covered by the EU’s Ecolabelling scheme, and Volpi believes it is unlikely that it ever will be because of the widely varying energy supply markets across Europe. Also, renewable energy definitions in the EU currently favour inclusion of waste incinerators, which is contrary to Eugene criteria.
The Eugene project did receive some central European funding via the DGI Environment initiative to fund its website, which lends it wider credibility, said Volpi. Eugene has also held discussions with the US’s equivalent standard body, Green E, which has a more flexible criteria, including incinerators, and up to a 50% energy mix including non-renewables, stated Volpi.
The Eugene network is currently assessing existing national labelling systems and to date, Germany’s OK label has been certified under the Eugene standardisation.
The Eugene standard is being introduced ahead of this November’s European Council discussions on liberalising Europe’s energy markets where ministers will decide the level of transparency for consumers. Volpi said approval of an obligation for energy suppliers to disclose the sources and impacts on the environment of their energy is crucial for determining the future uptake of green energy. Without this level of transparency, he said, it will be difficult to police the green energy sector to ensure that consumers’ wishes are being fulfilled and they are not subsidising non-green supplies.
This is particularly important in WWF’s campaign to persuade European business to buy an extra 10% more green energy and for the public sector to raise its usage by 30% by 2010. Recent WWF research suggests that these increases would cut European carbon dioxide emissions by 56 million tonnes – equivalent to Denmark’s total emissions in 1998.
WWF's campaign focuses on the leading five European electricity producers - France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK - which together generated three quarters of the EU’s power in 1999. While ‘green’ power markets have been growing rapidly in some countries such as the Netherlands and Germany, they are starting from a very low base, and WWF believes it is vital that a market ‘pull’ complements the political ‘push’ for clean energy in all countries.
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