Plan for EU renewable energy law shelved

Industry blames Germany for scuppering directive, warns that sector's progress threatened

German political pressure has forced the European Commission to abandon plans to propose an EU directive on renewable energy, European wind turbine manufacturers have claimed. A Commission spokesperson confirmed to ENDS Daily that plans for a directive had been shelved, but would not confirm the reasons. Officials are now drawing up a working document instead, according to the spokesperson, which is due to be presented to EU ministers in March.

The planned directive aims to boost the prospects for renewable energy in Europe in line with the Commission's 1996 target of doubling the sector's share of all energy supply to 12% by 2010 (ENDS Daily 10 December 1998). The sticking point for Germany, according to a disgruntled European renewables industry, was its second aim of ensuring that renewable energy support schemes do not create trade barriers in the context of Europe's rapidly liberalising electricity supply market.

In particular, the directive was designed to favour "competition-based" funding schemes. This dismayed Germany's well organised wind turbine operating industry, which has profited from the country's "feed-in" system of fixed pricing for renewably produced electricity to develop the largest installed wind power capacity of any country in the world (ENDS Daily 12 February 1998).

According to Christophe Bourillon of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), German wind turbine owners lobbied their government to block the plan, fearing it would end the feed-in system. "It's completely senseless," he told ENDS Daily. "The German government is inexperienced and has acted out of fear. They've killed something they could have actually used to protect their feed-in system."

"Liberalisation of the European energy market is already under way and won't wait for us," Mr Bouillon said. "Renewables are the new kid on the block, and we needed a directive to give us a level playing field while we develop to full maturity and become more competitive. Now we're being asked to go right out and compete against the heavily subsidised German coal industry straight away."

EWEA feels later versions of the draft directive would have provided adequate protection for the feed-in systems. "The draft directive gave countries leeway to keep their systems in place until 2010, and there was a hardship clause so that no investors would be sold down the river," Søren Krohn of the Danish Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association told ENDS Daily. "The transition period is long enough that, with guaranteed growth in that time, a lot of other initiatives such as green certificates and the upscaling of wind turbines could be developed. Without a directive, we will achieve maybe a quarter of the growth in renewables we could have achieved otherwise."

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel +32 2 295 1111; European Wind Energy Association,, tel: +44 171 402 7122.

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