The Parliament’s Greens/EFA group says that the current FP7 is biased towards the promotion of forms of energy that have no future and is calling for common sense and democratic debate on the allocation of the EU’s energy research funds.
The Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament has published a report called ‘Stimulating a democratic debate about the EU’s research priorities’. It strongly criticises the Commission’s current FP7 proposal, in which the “lion’s share is allocated to nuclear energy research at the expense of renewables R&D”.
The group argues that the current bias towards nuclear R&D does not match the EU’s Lisbon objectives, especially as regards the massive ITER (nuclear fusion) project which has been earmarked a majority of the 4.8 billion euro foreseen for the Euratom programme of the FP7. The ITER project in general has provoked some mixed reactions (see EURACTIV 29 June 2005). On the one hand, its proponents claim that if it succeeds, ITER will result in a cost effective and potentially inexhaustible supply of energy that will eventually replace oil and gas altogether. On the other hand, its opponents argue that the project is purely experimental and that it will take at least 50 years before a commercially viable reactor is even built.
The group thus highlights the need to allocate EU’s energy R&D funding according to technologies’ ability to help the EU to meet its energy objectives. In addition, the funds should be “prioritised towards technologies that rank highest against scientific objective criteria” such as rapid reduction of C02 emissions, reduction of the EU’s oil dependency, the EU’s overall industrial competitiveness and job creation in the short term.
The EU’s energy R&D budget consists of two sets of legislation – the Euratom framework programme for nuclear technology and the general framework programme for other technologies. The Euratom budget does not require the approval of the European Parliament, unlike the rest of the framework programme. According to the Greens/EFA group this creates “an artificial split between the energy research and development budgets and stops the Parliament from influencing the strategic development of the overall energy sector”.