Brussels, 10 Nov 2005
A group of MEPs from the Green/EFA group of the European Parliament has called for a rethink of the EU's energy priorities under the proposed Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), arguing that the relatively limited funds for research should be prioritised according to objective scientific criteria.
The urgency of the current energy and climate situation, they argue, means that priority must be given to technologies that can deliver new energy options in the short term. They also question the 'artificial split' between the research framework programme and the Euratom programme for nuclear research.
In a joint statement, the four MEPs said: 'The EU's scarce energy funding must be carefully targeted towards technologies that can deliver the key sector objectives, namely: the rapid decrease in CO2 emissions; the reduction of dependency on imported and expensive fossil fuels; and the creation of jobs before 2020.'
The FP7 proposals are 'moving in the wrong direction in some key areas' they continue, for example by making priority funding available for carbon capture and storage research, which 'should be funded from the large profits of the coal and gas industries'.
Particular criticism is reserved for the international thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER) project, in terms of both of its aims and governance. 'It is completely irrational that nuclear fusion, a technology which at best may be commercially viable forty years from now, will receive more than three times the budget of all renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes,' says the statement, adding 'We have difficulties to understand how billions of euros can be allocated to the ITER project before the EU institutions have agreed on the next Financial Perspectives.'
Instead, in a report entitled 'A criteria based approach to the Seventh EU Research Framework Programme for energy and nuclear', the Green/EFA propose allocating research funds on the basis of scientific criteria such as: Can the technologies lead to rapid reductions in CO2 emissions? Will the technologies reduce the EU's oil dependency and the levels of imported energy? Can they contribute to the EU's competitiveness and job creation priorities.
If this were the case, says the report, FP7 would give absolute priority to energy efficiency measures in areas such as appliances, office equipment, consumer electronics and buildings. 'The second top priority area must be renewable energies. [...] Wind, water, biomass, marine, solar geothermal have no or few physical limits and do not pose any additional significant risks to the planet and people. The EU has set itself ambitious targets for the further introduction of renewable energies - to enable these to be met, further investment in research and development must be made.'
Finally, the report says that during discussions on the Financial Perspectives the Council is likely to reduce the proposed research budget, and therefore the Commission will have to revise its research priorities. 'We propose that these changes are not based on vested national interests [...] or on current technology bias, but on scientific criteria,' it concludes.