MEPs demand binding renewables targets

EU parliament calls for "burden sharing" in first reading on renewable energy directive

EU member states should be set binding targets for increasing the share of electricity generated from renewable energy sources under the draft renewables directive proposed by the European Commission in May, MEPs said yesterday. The move signals an impending battle with EU governments over the issue because most oppose the idea (ENDS Daily 8 November).

Under pressure from ministers, the Commission dropped its own attempts to propose binding targets when it finally unveiled the directive. Instead, it suggested "indicative" national goals based largely on member states' own projections of renewable capacity increases (ENDS Daily 10 May).

In its first reading of the draft directive, however, the parliament called for targets to be made mandatory and for a "burden sharing" arrangement to be agreed, similar to the one used to distribute responsibility for meeting the EU's greenhouse gas emission reduction target under the Kyoto protocol.

The parliament backed the Commission's aim for renewables to meet 12% of EU energy needs by 2010. But it calculated that this would require 23.5% of electricity to come from renewables by the same date rather than the 22.1% suggested by the Commission.

Acknowledging that long negotiations on binding targets would hinder progress on finalising the directive, MEPs said binding targets should be agreed after its adoption, though with a gap not greater than one year. Renewable electricity traded across borders should be counted to the importing country's target, they said, and the Commission should provide "indications" of longer-term targets for 2020 by the end of 2004.

In another break with the Commission, the parliament said harmonised rules for financial support of renewables should not be introduced "until 2010 at the earliest" if this risked "jeopardising the continuation or effectiveness" of national schemes. The Commission currently favours introduction in just five years.

Renewable energy proponents have been delighted by the vote. Green MEP Claude Turmes said it was a "major breakthrough". Greenpeace welcomed the defeat of proposals by some MEPs to classify waste incineration as renewable, calling it a "great step towards effective promotion of true renewable energies".

MEPs did nevertheless vote to expand the directive's definition of renewable sources, calling for inclusion of annual peat growth, landfill gas, biodegradable pulp and paper industry waste and the biodegradable fraction of municipal waste as fuels considered to come from "non-fossil" sources.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: 284 2111, see also the verbatim record of the parliament's debate and its amendments to the Commission's proposal.

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