EU energy policy ignores hidden costs, environmentalists say

Europeans will be paying for the hidden costs of fossil fuels and nuclear power if the EU common energy policy agreed on Friday goes ahead, environmental groups have said.

The policy, which follows a Green Paper published earlier this month (see related story), does not consider the subsidies and environmental costs associated with fossil fuels and nuclear, WWF and Friends of the Earth said in response to the policy agreed.

Europe is paying over 20bn euros each year in subsidies to conventional (fossil fuel) power sources, according to the European Environment Agency, and an additional 40-70bn euros in pollution and health costs, FOE have said.

EU leaders were also urged to focus on energy efficiency and renewables instead of fossil fuels. FOE energy campaigner Jan Kowalzig said:

“Europe’s leaders have yet to learn a simple lesson: The most effective way to secure our energy supply is to cut back Europe’s huge demand by investing massively in energy saving technologies. Cutting energy waste must be one central pillar of any coherent European energy policy.”

As for nuclear power, the subsidies it receives would disqualify it as an economically viable energy source, he said: “Common economic sense would send nuclear power finally into the museum if a Strategic EU Energy Review would include all aspects of nuclear power, including the costs of waste storage for thousands of years and the consequences of a serious nuclear accident.”

As EU leaders discussed setting concrete targets for renewables, an idea reportedly opposed by Ireland and the UK, environmental groups urged for fossil fuels subsidies to be re-directed to clean energies and energy efficiency.

“If only a fraction of these sums would be reinvested in energy efficiency and renewable energies, the EU would easily be able to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 and lead the world in the fight against climate change”, the WWF’s Stephan Singer said.

“This is extremely important for the up-coming technology of off-shore clean wind power which may be providing 20-30 per cent of Europe’s power in the future,” he said.

But the WWF also welcomed the liberalization of European energy markets that the Common Energy Policy entails, saying it will give EU energy consumers the possibility of choosing renewables.

“True liberalisation with transparent prices, together with a harmonised and independent power grid will enable renewable energies and more efficient energy to enter the supply chain”, the WWF’s Stephan Singer said.

“True liberalisation also means different ownership for power production and power distribution so that end consumers all over Europe will have the choice to select the power source they want for the energy they use”.

By Goska Romanowicz

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