EU trying to solve renewable-energy ‘headache’

Officials said that the Commission was still unsure about how it will share the burden among member states, after EU leaders agreed earlier in March to have 20% of their overall energy needs covered by renewables by 2020.

The European Commission is currently working on a methodology to calculate precisely how much each member state will take up of the 20% overall renewable “burden”, EU officials said on 16 March 2007.

A proposal for a comprehensive directive on renewable energies is due in the third quarter with the toughest part of negotiations set to focus on defining a precise figure for each member state. “This will be a difficult one,” said one senior EU official speaking on condition of anonymity. “The headache is the figure.”

According to conclusions agreed unanimously by EU leaders on 9 March, “differentiated national overall targets” should be derived from the overall 20% EU figure, “taking account of different national starting points and potentials, including the existing level of renewable energies and energy mix”.

The wording came in response to concerns raised by France, which feared that it would have to radically change its energy mix as it relies heavily on nuclear power for electricity production. Other member states in Central Europe wondered how they could reach the 20% target when they have little natural potential for wind, hydro or solar power.

One senior EU official admitted that the 20% renewable energy target would be challenging to meet, considering that Europe as a whole was only at 6.4% currently. Moreover, he pointed out that the figure was largely made of hydropower, an energy source that has limited additional potential due to geographical constraints.

And with a higher share for renewables, some fear that energy prices will shoot up. “We are supportive of a general increase in the use of renewable energy”, said Ernest-Antoine Seillière, president of BusinessEurope, the EU employers’ organisation. “But meeting this binding target must not threaten an energy supply at competitive prices. Implementation must leave all other energy options open, in particular the use of nuclear energy.”

The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) also voiced concerns regarding implementation, saying that “setting an ambitious target does not automatically deliver the results”. “We need to go ahead at full speed in implementing the legislative framework, which will guarantee that renewable energy in all its sectors and potentials will be exploited,” said EREC President Arthouros Zervos.

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