The potential and limits of renewable energy technology

October 6, 2005

Brussels, 05 Oct 2005

Following a vote by the European Parliament in support of increasing the deployment of renewable energy sources, the Executive Director of the European Environment Agency Jacqueline McGlade has outlined the role that new technologies can play, but also their limits.

Speaking to the Austrian Parliament on 3 October, Professor McGlade referred to the need for a global approach to reducing emissions in order to slow climate change. She spoke of a need for a broad range of coordinated initiatives. These would include an increase in research and development (R&D), but also the removal of harmful subsidies, the introduction of measures to improve energy efficiency, the widespread use of lower carbon fuels, and use of a new EU emissions trading system.

Even hydrogen, considered by many to be the energy of the future, is not without drawbacks, explained Professor McGlade: '[F]uel options such as hydrogen for fuel cells provide only limited CO2 benefits unless it is produced from renewable resources. Today the main production pathway for hydrogen is to produce it from natural gas. In this process CO2 is emitted in the production phase. In the medium to long term hydrogen based on renewable resources could certainly come to play a role, but in the shorter term we have to rely on technologies such as hybrid vehicles to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions.'

Some automotive consultants are convinced that medium-sized vehicles that emit only around half of the emissions produced by today's new cars, according to Professor McGlade. She described the technology as 'a definite possibility for the future', but also emphasised that 'Technology can take us part of the way to a more sustainable mobility future, but it will not solve all problems. We also need to take a closer look at how we plan our infrastructure and how we use our land.'

The European Parliament's recommendations, adopted on 29 September, include a clear increase in the budget for renewables in the Seventh Framework Programme for research (FP7) as compensation for a previous bias in EU energy research programmes. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), nuclear technologies received 80 per cent of combined EU and OECD funding over the last three decades.

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities
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