Brussels, 10 Mar 2005
Europe's renewable energy community has become the latest group to lobby for increased research and development (R&D) funding in the next EU research programme, the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
Representatives from the sector presented common priorities for FP7 in Brussels on 1 March, and called for an exclusive budget line for renewable energy research of 250 million euro per annum. The sector estimates that it will receive between 90 and 100 million euro in FP6. It is argued that a higher figure is required in order to sustain the sector's double digit growth rates, and to maintain competitiveness in the face of stiff international competition. The last 15 years have seen a tenfold growth in the industry's turnover to 15 billion euro in 2004.
The sector also used the occasion, as well as a position paper on FP7, to outline the need for better tools and mechanisms to increase the take-up of research results by industry, as well as changes to the implementation of the framework programmes so as to encourage greater participation by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
'We can already see that renewables can deliver, but if this beneficial development is to continue, renewable energy requires a stable, predictable supportive political and legal framework coupled with continuous public and private investment in R&D,' said Professor Arthouros Zervos, president of the sector's umbrella organisation EREC. 'We should not forget that in Europe the nuclear industry has received for decades - and still receives - much more in subsidies and R&D support than renewable energy. If one counts the external costs of fossil generation as a subsidy for the industry paid for by society as a whole, then clearly this sector has also, for a long time, been placed at an unfair advantage,' said Professor Zervos.
Professor Didier Mayer, president European Renewable Energy Centres (EUREC), highlighted the achievements of previous research projects in the field, and their contribution to lower cost and more efficient renewable energy production. Wind turbines, for example, have increased in size and capacity, to 5 MW now, compared to 50 kW in 1980.
EU projects have also led to more efficient designs for hydro-electric turbines, a ten per cent efficiency improvement for solar thermal electricity, and a 35 per cent increase in efficiency for solar photovoltaics.
'A technology push from research coupled with a market pull favoured by supportive political and legal framework conditions are a combination that will help all renewable energy technologies,' said Professor Mayer. 'If Europe wants to stay at the forefront of one of the sectors most able to contribute to the Lisbon agenda, we have to strengthen our efforts.'
The sector does not state a preference for which sorts of renewable energy should be funded under FP7 in its position paper, saying instead that 'Each kind has its own intrinsic advantages and limitations. Combined intelligently, they can together form the backbone of a robust, environmentally-sound and secure energy supply system.' The industry does set R&D targets for various forms of renewable energy, however, namely: bioenergy; geothermal energy; hydro energies; solar energies; wind energy and distributed generation.
Targets include improving the downstream technology for bioenergy so that it can more readily accept a more varied stream of inputs, and reducing the cost of installing a geothermal plant by at least a factor of three. For solar buildings, objectives include the extension of heat storage capacity, and the development of seasonal heat and cold storage concepts, while the goal for wind energy is to further improve the efficiency of wind turbines, and to implement large scale deployment, both on and offshore, and in complex terrain and extreme environments. 'FP7 Research Priorities for the Renewable Energy Sector' is available at the following web address: http://www.eurec.be