The Communication on the Community Strategy and Action Plan on Renewable Energy Sources, the first review of the EU’s 1997 renewables strategy, published on 16 February, has concluded that nations will not meet their combined goal of 12% of energy supply to come from renewables by 2010 without slowing energy demand.

The European Parliament had welcomed the target “as a minimum” then, but statistics from 1998-9 now show that “progress at the Community level is not yet visible in the consolidated statistics….because of the total increase of energy consumption. At this stage it is far from sure that the indicative target of the white paper will be reached by 2010. This objective will never be achieved if gross energy consumption continues to increase in line with the current trend,” the report states. According to provisional figures, in 1998, renewables accounted for 5.9% of gross inland energy consumption, up from 5.8% on 1997’s total.

In reality, however, renewables have experienced great growth over the last three years, with an increase of 32% on the total renewable energy source (RES) primary energy production from 1988-9. Wind and solar power performed particularly well with production increases of 2154% and 138% respectively, the former seeing the installation of many new plants. The report praises the increased market penetration of solar thermal energy in Austria and Germany, in spite of having less potential than southern countries, whilst Denmark, Germany and Spain are lauded for developing their wind markets. Other countries, however, with a higher wind potential are criticised for not developing the market.

The poor take-up of liquid biofuels was also criticised. Only France, Germany, Italy and Austria had policies on their useage, with a total contribution to the total diesel fuel used in the EU’s transport sector at 0.3% in 1998. The EC recommends Energy revising taxation to favour biofuels, the report says (see this week’s UK story on biofuels).

The report concludes that demand management and energy efficiency measures need to be vigorously implemented. It urges EU nations to develop specific renewables objectives for the heating, cooling and transport sectors, and energy crops should receive greater encouragement under the common agricultural policy.

An important step in furthering the EC’s plans was last year’s directive on renewables. The EC is to soon launch an initiative promoting renewables in the building sector and will set out how EU structural funds can be used to favour renewables.

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