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Brussels, 26 November 1997

A Strategy and Action Plan for the promotion of Renewable Energy Sources

The European Commission adopted today, on an initiative of Commissioner Christos Papoutsis, responsible for Energy, a White Paper which for the first time sets out a comprehensive Strategy and Action Plan designed to achieve by 2010 an ambitious but realistic goal of doubling from 6% to 12% the share of renewable energies in the total energy demand of the European Union. The benefits from the achievement of this goal are very considerable in terms of CO2 emission reductions, scientific and industrial development in a high technology sector, employment creation, avoided fuel costs, increased security of supply, local and regional development and exports to third countries which can benefit considerably from European technology. The main features of the strategy are: the reinforcement of policies affecting the penetration of renewable energies including agriculture and rural policy, regional policy, internal market measures in the regulatory and fiscal areas. The strengthening of cooperation between Member States is proposed, as well as coordinated support measures to facilitate investment and enhance dissemination and information on renewable energy sources (RES). An important element of the strategy and the action plan is the Campaign for Take Off, involving the key photovoltaic, wind energy and biomass sectors, which will be a means for the drive towards a significant increase in renewables penetration in the market.

Commissioner Christos Papoutsis declared: "I am satisfied with today's decision. The strategy for the promotion of renewable energies together with the Energy Framework Programme which we adopted last week, constitute the cornerstone of our future energy policy providing us with the basic guidelines for action. Today we have taken a significant step towards the objective of doubling the use of renewable energies in the European Union. A goal which is very widely supported. Today, we are sending a clear message that we are determined to follow an ambitious and realistic policy to promote the use of energy sources which enhance our security of supplies, contribute to the creation of jobs and help us protect the environment. It is important that Member States play their role in promoting renewables. I call upon the governments to define their national strategies and targets to contribute to the overall 2010 objective."

The Strategy and Action Plan

A central aim of the Strategy and Action Plan is to ensure that the need to promote renewable energy sources (RES) is integrated in new policy initiatives, as well as in the full implementation of a wide range of policies: energy, environment, employment, taxation, competition, research, technological development and demonstration, agriculture, regional, and external relations policies.

The Strategy and Action Plan aims at providing fair market opportunities for renewable energies without excessive financial burdens. It proposes a list of priority measures and actions aimed at overcoming obstacles and redressing the balance in favour of renewables.

In the context of the Internal Market it proposes: the better and fairer access of RES generated electricity to the network market; fiscal and finance measures; new bioenergy initiatives for transport, heat and electricity, such as the promotion of biofuels, biogas and biomass; improved building regulations to promote the use of RES, by introducing solar energy for heating and cooling.

It foresees the reinforcement of the "RES component" of different European Union policies. In this context it includes actions such as the strengthening of the competitive edge of the European industry, the investigation of opportunities for the creation of new SMEs and jobs, the consideration by the Commission of the appropriate modifications in favour of RES during the revision of the Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection, the extension and consolidation the aid opportunities for RES in the context of Regional Policy, the promotion of RES through the Common Agricultural Policy and the rural development policy, the promotion of RES in the framework of the external relations with special emphasis to the ACP and associated countries.

Finally, it proposes support measures, such as the targeted promotion through various EU programmes, consumer information and sensibilisation, improved access to finance and a RES networking including regions, islands and cities aiming at a 100% supply from RES, or the twinning of cities, schools, farms, etc. using RES.

The Campaign for take-off

In order to assist a large scale penetration of renewables and make progress towards the objective of doubling their share by 2010, a coordinated campaign for a real take-off of RES will be planned over a number of years in order to promote the implementation of large-scale projects in different RES sectors. The role of the Member States is critical in this concerted action and the Commission will establish the framework, provide, where appropriate, technical and financial assistance, and coordinated actions. Many parties can be potentially active in this campaign including the regions, municipalities, town and country planning bodies, farmers associations and industry associations.

The Campaign foresees four key actions promoted and co-financed by the Union:

· An EU wide initiative to install 500,000 photovoltaic roof and facade systems in the domestic market (schools, public buildings, tourism, sport and recreational facilities) and an export initiative for 500,000 village systems to help start decentralised electrification in developing countries. The total investment is estimated at ECU 3,000 million for the period 1997-2010;

· The installation of 10,000 MW large wind farms in locations with favourable conditions. The 10,000 MW of wind farms represent 25% of the feasible overall wind energy penetration by 2010. The total investment for the period until 2010 is estimated to be in the order of ECU 10,000 million;

· 10,000 MW of biomass installations for combined heat and power plants, which could range in scale from a few hundred kW to multi-MW and combine different technologies. The 10,000 MW of biomass installations represent 1/6 of the total estimated contribution biomass could make by 2010. The total cost of this initiative is estimated to be in the order of ECU 5,000 million;

· The integration of RES in 100 communities, in order to use these energies in integrated systems for local power supply or in dispersed schemes for regional power supply. A number of pilot communities, regions, cities and islands will be selected from those which can reasonably aim at 100% power supply from RES. They will be of varying size and characteristics. The cost of this initiative is difficult too define, but, according a first estimation, it could be in the order of ECU 2,500 million.

Cost and benefits

For the period 1997-2010, the net investment to implement the Strategy and Action Plan is estimated at ECU 95,000 million, leading to the creation of a significant number of new jobs and the saving of a total of ECU 21,000 million in fuel costs. Imported fuels are estimated to be reduced by 17.4% and the CO2 emissions by 402 million tonnes/year by 2010. Another important economic benefit is the potential growth of the European renewable technologies industry in international markets. European industry in this field is second to none in its ability to provide the equipment and technical, financial and planning services required for market growth. This offers significant business opportunities for exports and possibilities for expansion of the European industry. An ECU 17,000 million annual export business is projected for 2010, creating also a significant number of additional jobs.

The role of the Member States

The overall EU objective of doubling the share of RES to 12% by 2010 implies that Member States have to encourage their increase according to their own potential. Targets set by each Member State could stimulate the effort towards increased exploitation of the available potential. It is important, therefore, that each Member State should define its own strategy and within it propose its own contribution for the achievement of the EU target.

Member States will have a key role to play in taking the responsibility to promote RES, to introduce the measures necessary to execute the Action Plan and achieve the national and European objectives. Measures should be taken at the appropriate level according to the subsidiarity principle within the coordinated framework provided by the Strategy and Action Plan. Legislative action will only be taken at EU level when measures at national level are insufficient or inappropriate, or when harmonisation is required across the Union. The Strategy and Action Plan will be flexible and updated over time in the light of experience gained and new developments.

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