EU Energy Green Paper "weak on renewables"
The new EU energy strategy misses the chance renewables offer for freeing Europe from its addiction to imported fossil fuels, environmental groups argue.The newly published "Green Paper on a European strategy for secure, competitive and sustainable energy for Europe", which aims to spark Europe-wide debate before binding decisions are taken, drew criticism for its focus on security of gas and oil supplies combined with a vague approach to renewables.
The paper calls for more coordination and unity in the energy policy of member states, and identifies six policy areas that must deal with growing energy demand. These are EU external policy for securing oil and gas imports, the diversity of the EU's energy mix, internal supply policy, tackling climate change, technological innovation, and job markets.
The European commission said in a statement: "The green paper will help the EU lay the foundations for a sustainable, competitive and secure energy. The world is entering a new energy era. With a common, coherent energy policy, Europe can embrace this era with confidence."
But while it correctly identifies energy security and the climate change implications of energy use as challenges for Europe, the paper proposes no concrete steps to move towards renewables, say environmentalists.
The WWF criticised it as "weak on energy efficiency and renewable energies," Greenpeace said it was seriously flawed, and Friends of the Earth described it as "backward-looking."
Jan Kowalzig, energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "The EU's focus on energy security is understandable. But oil from the volatile Middle East and gas from authoritarian-ruled Russia makes Europe vulnerable."
"The most effective way to secure energy supply is to cut down energy waste first - and to produce energy from renewable sources in Europe. Climate change cannot be halted with yet more oil and gas consumption."
Stephan Singer, Head of European Climate and Energy unit at WWF, commented: "Gas and oil prices are likely to remain high, therefore a share of 25 per cent of renewable energies is economically desirable and easily achievable in the EU by 2020."
"Yet, when talking about investments, the EU still seems to give priority to traditional sources, such as coal and gas that are neither economically nor environmentally sustainable."
The next step for the Green Paper will be the EU Energy Council on 14 March. It will then be discussed by European heads of state on 23-24 March.
By Goska Romanowicz
© Faversham House Ltd 2006. edie news articles may be copied or forwarded for individual use only. No other reproduction or distribution is permitted without prior written consent.