Interview: Renewables becoming EU’s ‘most dynamic’ industries

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The naysayers have it wrong: Europe can easily achieve a 20% share for renewables in its energy mix, nuclear can be phased out and second-generation biofuels technologies will arrive in time to meet bioenergy targets sustainably, according to Oliver Schäfer, of the European Renewable Energy Council.  

With the Commission preparing legislative proposals to increase the share of renewables in the EU’s energy mix, and growth in renewable energies such as solar power likely to continue, Oliver Schäfer is confident that the EU will honour the renewable energy commitments made by their heads of state in March (EURACTIV 16/03/07).

“I believe that the heads of state meant their commitments seriously. And I assume that we take our heads of state seriously,” Schäfer said.

Concerning the specifics, Schäfer expects from the Commission “a directive Proposal that contains a breakdown of the 20% target into national targets. One option for doing that could be to share the target equally among the member states. Increasing the renewables share from 7% to 20% means an increase of 13 percentage points.”

A general 13% increase in renewables for every member state is an option that is being seriously considered by the Commission, and Schäfer argues that “there is no scientific evidence that this would not be feasible”.

But it is not clear if member states would endorse such a proposal, as the March Council conclusions state that renewables targets “should be achieved with a view to sharing efforts and benefits fairly and equitably among all member states, taking into account different national circumstances, starting points and potentials”. 

An EU source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the presentations by Commission officials on how the burden could be shared among member states were so complex he could not understand them.

The renewables debate also touches on issues of energy security, as some observers warn that increasing reliance on renewables, to the detriment of “traditional” energy sources such as nuclear, is risky from an energy-security standpoint. In June, the International Energy Agency (IEA) urged Germany not to phase out nuclear too quickly, as this would have “significant impacts on energy security, economic efficiency and environmental sustainability” (EURACTIV 05/06/07).

But Schäfer downplayed the IEA report, saying that “all evidence shows that Germany is able to phase out nuclear and at the same time replace it with renewables”.

Schäfer also criticised a letter from the industry federation BusinessEurope (EURACTIV 04/06/07) that labelled the EU’s renewable energy ambitions “out of reach” and questioned the promotion of renewables in terms of security of energy supply. 

Citing forecasts made by the consultancy Roland Berger, Schäfer added that “by 2020, the German environment industry, including renewables – will have overtaken the steel and car industries put together.” And since BusinessEurope’s members are increasingly active in renewable energies, the industry group “would be better off looking ahead rather than fighting old fights”. 

Please click here to read the full interview.

  • European renewable Energy Council (EREC):Website

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