EU countries agree to increase renewable energy share to 22%

Energy ministers from all EU nations have signed up for non-binding targets to increase renewables from 6% to 12% community-wide by 2010, and set a long-term target of 22%.

The ministers set the target on 6 December, which vary considerably for each of the 15 states to reflect the position that renewables already have in each nation.

Austria, for example, already produces 70% of its electricity from renewables and agreed to increase its share to 78%. Britain, with less than 2% of its electricity derived from renewables, agreed to a 10% target. The levels were agreed on the proviso that renewables would be allowed to be subsidised for at least 10 more years.

The decision for non-binding targets will conflict with the European Parliament, which wants legally-binding targets. Only Germany and Denmark were in favour of legally-binding targets, but Austria and Luxembourg refused. The disagreements may lead to difficult negotiations between the parliament and national governments. The targets may also influence the European Competition Commissioner, Mario Monti, who is due to publish guidelines on state aid to renewables later this month, and may seek to limit the amount of subsidies allowed.

The Commission’s Energy Council does not propose a harmonised system of aid for renewables at Community level, but “may make a proposal for a more harmonised system of aid within four years of the entry into force of the directive.”

Loyola de Palacio, the Commission vice-president responsible for energy and transport, welcomed the agreement reached in the Energy Council as “a major step forward towards a more diversified and sustainable supply of energy”. “Renewable sources have to be heavily backed if we are to combat emissions of greenhouse gases with any effect. This is one of the priorities of our Green Paper on the security of energy supply in Europe and I am pleased to see Europe’s ministers take this dimension on board so quickly,” she added.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie