EU renewable energy "take-off" plan launched

Commission aims to boost technology support, develop 100 "fossil-free" communities

The European Commission is hoping to boost investment in renewable energy projects in the EU to euros 30bn by 2003 under a new promotion campaign to "kick-start" its strategy to ensure alternatives to fossil fuels provide 12% of EU energy needs by 2010.

Envisaged in the Commission's 1997 white paper on renewables and published in Brussels yesterday, the Campaign for Take-Off (CTO) will coordinate national and EU efforts to trigger private sector funding of large-scale renewable energy projects in four key sectors.

Under the campaign, the Commission will sign "renewable energy partnerships" with local authorities and industry groups to highlight EU-wide cooperation on national, regional or local renewable energy projects and create a "clear and well-defined investment climate" for private funding, which it expects to provide euros 23bn of the target investment total. Of the remaining euros 7bn of public funding anticipated for the campaign, euros 6bn will come from member states and the rest from EU structural and research and development funds.

The Commission surveyed EU member states' existing policies and priorities to determine the four sectors warranting campaign support. The first three are "mature" renewable energy technology sectors - solar, wind and biomass - for which an "initial stimulus" is needed to improve market penetration and generate greater economies of scale. The fourth is a specific project to identify one hundred communities which can "realistically" aim at 100% power supply from renewable energy sources.

The CTO sets specific "indicative" targets for each of these sectors: among them are aims to install one million photovoltaic systems using 15m square metres of solar collectors; to build 10,000MW-worth of wind turbine capacity; and to provide biomass fuel heating for one million dwellings. The Commission's main role in achieving these targets will be to provide marketing, promotional and project development support through its Altener programme.

Although involvement in the campaign will not be a legal requirement, a Commission spokesperson said member states had expressed willingness to participate after the presentation of an earlier working paper. The proposals for the campaign will be discussed in next week's EU Energy Council next week.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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