Brussels, 21 November 2005
Using the earth’s natural heat, the power of waves, the rays of the sun or the earth’s green resources to produce energy and fuel are all at the centre of the European Commission’s efforts to promote research into renewable energy. The EU will invest €440 million of research money in advancing these technologies between 2002 and 2006. The objective is that by 2010 at least 12% of the EU’s overall energy consumption should come from renewable sources for both environmental and supply security reasons. Research is fundamental to achieving this goal, showing the close link between energy, research and environmental policies. A major conference on renewable energies, starting in Brussels today, will bring together a wide range of organisations involved in research into renewable energy sources, to discuss how better to work together to develop this important sector. The conference will be accompanied by an exhibition showcasing some of the successful projects that have been funded at European level.
European Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potočnik said: “Today’s research policy provides the knowledge for tomorrow’s energy policy. Our long-term goal is a transformation of the current fossil-fuel based energy system into a more secure, energy-efficient, and sustainable one. Enhancing our knowledge of renewable energy sources through research is an important step to achieving this goal as part of a sustainable energy mix.”
The EU is a world leader in renewable energy technologies, a result of strong national and EU level effort over the past two decades. Europe invests considerably more in research into renewable energy than both the US and Japan. EU level funds amount to roughly one quarter of public-financed research in this field.
The Commission’s approach has been to promote cross-industry and cross-sector collaboration in the short, medium and long term. It has supported the creation of a Technology Platform for the Photovoltaics sector (converting sunlight into electricity). This approach has been successful in bringing together interested parties from industry, to research institutions to consumer groups and NGOs. In fact, the creation of Technology Platforms in other sectors, such as Biofuels for Transport, Wind and Solar Thermal are now in the pipeline. By bringing these sectors together in this way, the EU can ensure the most efficient use of funds and attract more private investment, working to a research agenda that is agreed in common.
Renewable energy research currently represents about 50% of the energy research programme. The Commission is proposing to maintain this level of investment in the future research programme for 2007 to 2013. If research funds increase, as requested by the Commission, this will mean considerable new investment in this type of research.
Renewable energy sources include:
- Wind –harnessing the naturally occurring energy of the wind to generate electricity, both onshore and offshore
- Photovoltaics – using semi-conductor materials to capture the energy in sunlight and convert it directly into electricity
- Biomass – converting organic matter such as wood, plants and agricultural waste to provide heat, produce fuel and generate electricity
- Concentrated solar power – concentrating the energy of the sun to generate electricity or provide heat
- Ocean energy systems – exploiting energy from the ocean such as tidal current and waves to generate electricity
- Geothermal – using steam and hot water generated by heat from the earth’s crust to produce electricity and provide heating.
The exhibition alongside the conference, which is open to journalists, will present success stories in European renewable energy research. There is a special display by researchers from the new Member States showing their expertise in this field, as well as stands manned by the renewable energy industry associations.
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