EU renewable energy support directive proposed

Long-awaited draft law includes indicative targets backed by threat of mandatory action

The European Commission today unveiled its long-awaited proposal for a directive on renewable energy support in the EU. The draft law aims to double the proportion of "green" energy from 6% to 12% of primary energy supply by increasing the share of renewably generated electricity from 14% to 22% by 2010. Today's adoption of the draft directive marks the end of a tortuous process which has seen two previous proposals fall at the final hurdle after opposition from member states, industry and environmental groups.

EU energy commissioner Loyola de Palacio outlined the thrust of the directive last month and the final draft introduces no changes. Member states will be able to keep national financial support schemes for at least five years but should eventually adopt a harmonised EU system. Non-binding "indicative" national targets for renewables will be set to ensure the overall EU target is met (ENDS Daily 10 April). Member states will have to report annually on their progress, and the Commission will propose mandatory targets if national goals are "inconsistent" with the EU target.

With the issue of support schemes side-stepped for the moment, all attention is now likely to fix on the draft indicative targets (see table below). Though these are based on existing national targets for around half of member states, the Commission is proposing that several of them take stronger action (ENDS Daily 11 April).

The renewable energy industry and environmentalists accept that the proposed targets are ambitious but argue that they should be made immediately binding to have real effect. They predict that finalisation of the directive will be delayed as governments try to reduce their share of the burden of reaching the 12% target. Ms de Palacio admitted today that there "may be problems" agreeing final targets in the Council of Ministers.

The directive proposes several other supporting measures for renewables. Member states would have to certify green energy schemes to enable producers to guarantee that electricity they sell is renewably generated. The certification requirements would ease green electricity trades if the EU eventually decides for such a system, the Commission said.

Member states will also have to review planning and administrative procedures to "reduce regulatory barriers" to renewables uptake. This will include setting up single reception points for project applications, better cooperation between authorities and "fast-track" land-use planning procedures.

Although no mandatory rules will be introduced on sharing the costs of electricity transmission, system operators will be obliged to grant priority to renewable energy generators. Connection charges, meanwhile, will have to "reflect the economic costs and benefits associated with the connection" so that costs for small generators are not "unfairly prohibitive".

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European Commission plan for EU countries' renewables targets 
(% of electricity generated renewably)
             1997 actual   2010 targets   % increase
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Austria         72.7           78.1            7
Sweden          49.1           60.0           22
Portugal        38.5           45.6           18
Finland         24.7           35.0           42
Spain           19.9           29.4           48
Italy           16.0           25.0           56
France          15.0           21.0           40
Denmark          8.7           29.0          233
Greece           8.6           20.1          134
Germany          4.5           12.5          178
Ireland          3.6           13.2          267
Netherlands      3.5           12.0          243
Luxembourg       2.1            5.7          171
UK               1.7           10.0          488
Belgium          1.1            6.0          445
Overall EU      13.9           22.1           58
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Source:  European Commission
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Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111, and press release IP/00/460 dated 10/5/00 on Rapid. Full document not yet on the web; see final draft

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