Brussels, 19 Jul 2006
The renewable energy industry associations have expressed their disappointment with the European Commission, who dropped a European Parliament decision to devote two-thirds of the non-nuclear energy section of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) budget to renewable energy research.
The European Parliament's decision came during the debate on FP7, and was adopted on 15 June - amendment 320. However, during the horse-trading that took place between that vote and the new Commission proposal for FP7, the Commission dropped the idea.
In a press conference on 17 July, a Commission spokesperson explained that the Commission did not want to 'ring-fence' funds, and that the Commission instead wanted more money to go to 'cross-cutting' technology, such as new grids systems, which would benefit all energy suppliers, including renewables.
At a second conference on 18 July, the renewable lobby hit back, claiming that specific funds are ring-fenced under FP7. They went on to claim that to not ring-fence funds for renewables under FP7 hits the renewable energy sector - a highly innovative sector - at a time when innovation is high on the political agenda.
'The decision of the Commission is difficult to understand for the renewable energy industry,' said the European Wind Energy Association's (EWEA) Isabelle Valentiny.
Christian Kjaer, chief executive of the EWEA, elaborated: 'There is nothing unusual in rejecting a Parliament proposal [for FP7],' he said. 'It is unusual when there are calls for more renewable energy, and it is unusual to reject such a large proposal.'
The Parliament's proposals would have guaranteed ¿226 million of FP7 money going to renewables. 'The Commission says it cannot earmark funding for specific technologies, but there are specific earmarkings for coal, nuclear and hydrogen projects,' said Mr Kjaer.
'I will not be able to tell my members what they can get out of FP7 until it is all over,' he said. He also pointed out that both the US and Japan have developed policies to promote the use of renewable energies, and are putting significant funds aside to develop renewable energy technology.
Europe is an acknowledged world leader in renewable technologies - especially in wind and photovoltaic. 'We have to import larger and larger quantities of energy into the EU - currently 50 per cent. We believe that renewable energy technology will reap benefits. The countries exporting this technology to the rest of the world- they will be the winners in the future,' he said.
But Mr Kjaer believes that companies may be attracted to firmer funding streams outside the EU, particularly the US and Japan. 'Previous Framework Programmes had a strong renewable energy focus, and since the 1980s, this has gone a long way to making many renewable energy streams mainstream. But other countries could take-up these streams if the EU does not want them.'
Mr Kjaer believes specifically that ignoring the renewable energy industry could have a significant impact on both Lisbon strategy goals and general competitiveness. 'If other countries see the EU's lead, they may follow. But the EU has stepped back and is silent at decision-time,' he said.
For further information, visit the individual associations making-up Renewable Energy House:
- The European Wind Energy Association
- The European Renewable Energy Council
- The European Renewable Energy Centres
- The European Photovoltaic Industry Association