Commission bids to salvage renewables directive

EU executive outlines possible proposal for member states, asks for comments

The European Commission yesterday sought to defuse a row that has once more hampered plans for an EU directive to promote renewable energy while integrating it into the single market. Abandoning hopes of publishing a formal draft directive immediately, energy commissioner Loyola de Palacio gave EU energy ministers a short summary of eight proposed measures and asked for feedback.

The move follows an outcry when details of the Ms de Palacio's plans for a directive were leaked (ENDS Daily 3 November). She said yesterday that she "preferred to postpone [the proposal] in order to move more quickly in the end".

Two of the measures suggested aim at supporting renewable energy growth. The first is to set targets for the share of renewable electricity consumed. These could be a binding EU-level target, or a requirement for member states to set national targets consistent with the EU's broader objective of doubling the share of renewable energy.

This would not mean the same targets for all states, Ms de Palacio stressed. "We can't expect the same percentage from everyone, so the idea of binding targets is very difficult," she said. Speaking for the EU presidency, Finnish energy minister Erkki Tuomioja said that national targets should be "in terms of improvement rather than absolute". There is "considerable unanimity" in the Council for this approach, he added.

Of the six measures proposed to integrate renewable energy into the single market, the first is the most controversial because countries in the vanguard of renewable energy support fear a directive might block further development.

Member states should eliminate discrimination over grid access for renewable electricity, the Commission says. This could include an "additional incentive" to support renewables by authorising countries where the share of publicly supported renewables exceeds 5% of electricity consumption to limit access to the grid of producers from member states below this threshold.

The proposal could have far-reaching positive consequences for renewables, according to one expert. In an article in the latest edition of the journal Windpower Monthly, the magazine's editor Lyn Harrison describes the proposal as "complex but clever" and claims it will lead green power marketers in countries below the 5% threshold to "apply enormous pressure to their governments to get on with renewables development".

The remaining five measures proposed by the Commission are: introduction of a guarantee of origin system for renewable electricity, an end to discrimination in price support schemes after 10 years, examination of opportunities to define subsidy level ceilings, streamlining of national renewables authorisation procedures, and verification of support levels for renewables after two years.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111. References: Windpower Monthly editorial leader.

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