EU "must promote" renewable energy exports

European Parliament report calls for action to match US, Japanese, initiatives

The EU "urgently needs" to match US and Japanese support for exports of renewable energy technologies, according to a draft report approved by a European Parliament committee this week. Drafted by German Socialist MEP Dietrich Elchlepp and approved by the committee on external economic relations on Tuesday, the report calls on the EU to create a "European Export Council for Renewable Energies," along the lines of the existing US Export Council for Renewable Energy.

The "own-initiative" parliamentary report also calls on the European Commission to make a study of the foreign trade implications for the EU of supporting renewables, including an analysis of implications for member states' balance of payments.

The global market for renewable energies is set to grow extremely rapidly, the report notes. Photovoltaic solar systems are currently increasing by 15% per annum, principally in developing countries. The global market for wind power is forecast to grow by 26% annually from 1998-2002.

European industry "occupies a leading position" in this market, Mr Elchlepp says. European wind turbine manufacturers have a 75% share of the world market, one-third of photovoltaic units are produced in Europe, and the EU is playing a "pioneering role" in biomass energy development.

The opportunities for EU industries, and particularly small and medium-sized enterprises are thus very significant, Mr Elchlepp argues. But they risk being "thrown away" unless the EU gives more support, due to "increasingly intense" competition with US and Japanese manufacturers.

EU action to support renewable energy exports would bring economic and environmental benefits for both the EU and developing countries, the report says. Growing EU dependence on energy imports could be cut by over 17% if greater support for renewable energies could help to achieve a European Commission target for the Union to double the domestic share of renewable energy (ENDS Daily 24 November 1997).

In its 1997 white paper on renewable energies, the Commission also predicts that between half and nearly one million new jobs could be created in the EU by doubling the share of renewables. According to the report, "at least the same number of jobs again could be created" through exports. Meanwhile, EU action could make a "substantial contribution" to cutting developing countries' commercial energy import bills.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111. References: "Draft report on the external trade prospects for the EU in exporting technology and services for the use of renewable energy".

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