EU energy ministers have maintained proposed funding levels for programmes promoting efficiency and renewable energy, while cutting the overall budget for a five-year energy spending plan. The energy framework programme is designed to bring together six areas of EU spending on energy research and promotional activity that were previously dealt with separately. The European Commission had suggested allocating Ecu213m a year for the package, but earlier this year under the UK presidency, ministers made it clear that this was too much. The UK put forward a figure of Ecu180m, of which Ecu74m would go on the renewable energy programme Altener, and Ecu64m on the efficiency scheme Save (reduced from Ecu81.1m and 68.4m, respectively). This was acceptable to most delegations, but not formally agreed. At their last quarterly meeting, on Friday, ministers decided to reduce the headline figure by a further Ecu10m, but left the Altener and Save programmes untouched. Sources say that the ministers agreed that the renewables and efficiency programmes were a priority and that their funding levels must be retained, if possible. The framework's four other schemes, which lost out, were in the fields of international cooperation in the energy sector, economic forecasts, nuclear energy and clean solid fuel technologies. The European Parliament is expected to give its opinion on the Altener and Save programmes early next year.
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