Draft renewables directive finally published

The European renewable energy industry has broadly welcomed the draft renewables directive, published by the European Commission this week. The EC proposes renewable energy consumption that goes beyond many national targets. Wrangling over individual member states' commitments is expected.

The final draft version does not differ from the description of the directive, which EC Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio outlined last month (see related story). The EC has learnt its lesson from two failed attempts to present a draft renewables directive and this time it proposes allowing national subsidy programmes for renewable energy to remain in operation for the first five years after the directive enters into force. After the initial five years the EC reserves the right to propose an EU-wide renewables support scheme, but it states that it will only do so if necessary.

The overall aim of the directive is to increase the share of renewable energy in total EU electricity consumption to 22.1% by 2010. The EC argues that member state policies do not singly, or in combination, guarantee achievement of 22.1% by 2010 – therefore the EC has published ‘indicative’ targets. These non-binding targets give EU member states an idea of what their national commitment will have to be if they want to avoid interference from the EC.

Comparing Eurostat figures for 1997 renewable energy consumption with the EC’s indicative targets for 2010, it’s clear that some member states have a long way to go in a short time:

  • Austria – 72.7% needs to rise to 78.1%
  • Belgium – 1.1% needs to rise to 6%
  • Denmark – 8.7% needs to rise to 29%
  • Finland – 24.7% needs to rise to 35%
  • France – 15% needs to rise to 21%
  • Germany – 4.5% needs to rise to 12.5%
  • Greece – 8.6% needs to rise to 20.1%
  • Ireland – 3.6% needs to rise to 13.2%
  • Italy – 16% needs to rise to 25%
  • Luxembourg – 2.1% needs to rise to 5.7%
  • Netherlands – 3.5% needs to rise to 12%
  • Portugal – 38.5% needs to rise to 45.6%
  • Spain – 19.9% needs to rise to 29.4%
  • Sweden – 49.1% needs to rise to 60%
  • United Kingdom – 1.7% needs to rise to 10%

The high percentage for renewable energy consumption in some countries is caused by the directive’s inclusion of large-scale hydroelectric energy under the renewables definition.

Although the EC has not proposed binding national targets, it does warn that it will take action if the targets that nations set themselves are not, more or less, those that the EC recommends. Once member states have targets in place they will be obliged to report annually on progress.

Other requirements under the proposed directive relate to priority access to renewable generation installation to the grid, the sharing of installation costs between the renewable generators and electricity suppliers, and national certificate schemes to label green energy.

“The draft directive is a big step forward,” Vicky Pollard of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) told edie. “The Commission has taken on board a lot of our comments, but the directive could still be implemented in a way that could threaten the overall environmental objectives.”

EWEA is particularly pleased that the EC has realised the need for subsidies. “It is well recognised that there is market failure in energy markets, and that electricity markets do not reflect the true social costs of different forms of generation,” Klaus Rave, president of EWEA, said upon publication of the draft directive. “Renewable energy generators compete against conventional generators that do not pay the full cost of the damage they cause, and who also receive substantial state aids.”

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