Brussels, 28 Oct 2002
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Romano Prodi describes his vision of Europe in a "post-fossil-fuel" era.
Mr Prodi spoke of a future where European homes would generate the power they need from renewable sources like the wind and the sun, storing it in hydrogen fuel cells, and replacing the polluting energy sources in use today. This reinforces the commitment made at the Johannesburg Summit in the summer, where Mr Prodi said the EU's goal would be to obtain 22% of its electricity and 12% of all energy from renewable sources by 2010. He told the New York Times: "For us, reducing fossil fuel dependency is a priority." A priority rooted in Europe's current over-dependence on imported energy, with around 70% of its oil and gas coming from outside the EU. Storing and transporting energy are critical factors in the renewables race. As, too, is the joint participation of private and public actors in making it a reality. In early October, the Commission held the first meeting of a panel of experts from European companies with a stake in the matter, including Royal Dutch/Shell and Rolls Royce, who will advise the Union on how to develop and harness hydrogen fuel cells.
Getting its priorities right
The Commission has already pledged 810 million euro for research into sustainable energy projects through the Sixth Framework Programme's thematic priority six: 'Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems'. A central focus, reports the New York Times, will be hydrogen fuel cells - a field where, in the past, the Union has lagged behind the USA and Japan in publicly financed research.
But Mr Prodi believes Europe is poised to leap ahead of its rivals in its overall energy strategy. "Neither the United States nor Japan is clear on its goals," he said, and without clear goals, there is little progress. Don Huberts from Shell Hydrogen supports the view: "[The Commission] is providing a framework for the introduction of the new technologies in the EU. It would be very hard to convert the environmental benefits into consumer benefits without this political leadership."