Commission launches campaign to double renewable energy share

European Union policies are gearing up to double the market share of renewable energy sources (RES) but there is an urgent need to accelerate their expansion, said EC Director-General for energy, Pablo Benavides, launching the Commission's "Campaign for Take-Off" at the Sustain'99 renewable energy fair in Amsterdam this week.

The market share of renewables has increased from 4% in 1990 to 6% in 1997. The EU strategy for renewable energy sources aims to boost this to 12% by 2010. The Campaign for Take-Off is intended to facilitate the success of this strategy in the initial years until 2003, by stimulating increased public and private investment, with an emphasis on ‘near market’ technologies – solar, wind and biomass. It will promote the following key objectives:

  • 1,000,000 Photovoltaic systems
  • 15 million m2 of solar collectors
  • 10,000 MW of wind turbine generators
  • 10,000 MW of combined heat and power biomass installations
  • 1,000,000 dwellings heated by biomass
  • 1,000 MW of biogas installations
  • 5 million tonnes of liquid biofuels
  • 100 communities with 100% RES supply

Over the next five years, the EU will be providing some 600 million euros in funding for R&D and demonstration projects, but it hopes this campaign will be a trigger to mobilise the estimated 30 billion euros in public and private investment that would be needed to achieve the objectives. The participation of local and regional authorities and the private sector is essential to the success of the campaign says Benavides.

Part of the strategy is based on partnerships with organisations that make a voluntary commitment to promote renewables. So far, the town of Malmo in Sweden and the regional government, Junta de Andalucia, in Spain, have signed up as partners, and BP Amoco has expressed a clear interest in doing so.

Most of the current 6% of renewable market share is produced by hydropower says Dr Herman Scheer, president of Eurosolar, but the next 6% is likely to comprise mainly newer technologies such as wind, solar and biomass.

The 12% target is an average across the EU, as renewable take-up varies enormously by country – although not according to climate or economic conditions, as might be expected, says Scheer. For example, Denmark has more solar collectors per capita than Italy, yet Greece which is smaller and poorer than Italy has 80 times its solar capacity. Likewise, Ireland enjoys better wind conditions that Denmark, but uses 100 times less windpower. According to Scheer, public awareness, lack of bureaucracy, and political will are often more significant factors.

Some of the targets could easily be over-run, particularly if the southern countries catch up on solar power, says Scheer: Germany, for example, already has a programme to install 100,000 solar roofs.

At the same time, some countries will need to achieve higher than 12% if the overall target is to be met. The Netherlands, for example, is only planning to reach 10% by 2012. The Dutch Deputy Director General for Energy, Mr Van Hulst, told edie that they consider 10% a positive and ambitious target. The Netherlands will need to apply a much broader range of instruments than other countries, since it has no potential for large hydropower projects, and its high population density makes wind projects difficult to implement. The Dutch Government is supporting calls for a Directive on renewable energy trading, and is funding R&D projects in photovoltaics and biomass energy, says Van Hulst.

Scheer also points out that the initiatives needed to achieve these targets will go beyond the scope of the energy sector – the building sector will need to incorporate energy efficiency and and renewable energy systems in the design phase of new projects, and the widespread use of biomass would imply changes in the structure of agricultural programmes.

At present only 0.15% of monies from EU structural funds are used in renewable energy projects, which is far too little, says Scheer, but there is “very significant availability of funds” for new projects in the area.

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