This article is part of our special report Europe’s Industry : Halting the Decline.
Policies governing the European Union's drive towards a low-carbon economy should not lose sight of the need to retain the bloc's industrial base, Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said in a newspaper column today (16 July).
"Europe should think about adding a fourth goal to the three 20-20-20 energy-related ones up to the year 2020," Oettinger wrote in the German business daily Handelsblatt.
The bloc's goals are a planned 20% rise in energy efficiency, a 20% cut in carbon dioxide emissions and reaching a 20% share of renewables in energy usage by 2020.
Europe "should make [another] permanent goal a 20% industrial contribution to gross domestic product [by 2020]," Oettinger said.
This share had sunk to 18% in 2010 from around 22% in 2000. "We need a strategy for the re-industrialisation of Europe," he said.
Oettinger said Europe was too dependent on energy imports – its main natural gas supplier is Russia and its oil comes mainly from the Middle East – and therefore had to ensure efficient energy production and usage, to help stand up to competitors such as the United States where gas prices have plummeted.
Electricity would become the EU's main energy benchmark as it would expand its share in fuelling transport, Oettinger said, adding Europe needed a policy "that considered that security of supply and affordability of power are a decisive location factor in the global context," he wrote.
Oettinger, a German national, echoed rising concern about runaway power prices in his home country, where subsidising of fast-expanding green power is burdening industrial and household consumers.
This has already caused a government rethink on, and subsequent cuts to, solar power.
Environment Minister Peter Altmaier told the mass circulation Bild am Sonntag he was sceptical about some important goals of Germany's energy U-turn, put in place last year in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In particular, Altmaier doubted whether power usage could be cut by 10% up to 2020, which the government had stipulated along with goals to get out of nuclear energy fast in favour of green power.
On 30 June 2009, the European Commission adopted its national renewable energy action plans (NREAPs) framework, requiring member states to explain how they would meet a binding target of providing for 20% of their energy consumption from renewable sources.
Member states were forced to provide sectoral targets for the proportion of renewable energy they would use in transport, electricity, heating and cooling, and offer a road map for getting there. They were also obliged to submit future implementation reports every two years.
EU countries must also spell out what steps they are taking to cut red tape on administrative procedures and explain any "unnecessary obstacles". To further help the integration of renewable electricity into the grid, infrastructure development plans have to be reported, including reinforcement of interconnections with neighbouring countries.
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