Bold EU renewables policies will bolster economic and energy security, leaders agree

Clare Saxon Ghauri
14 May 2014

LONDON: Leading renewables industry bodies have publicly called for the EU to reinforce its low carbon energy policies, in a move they say will greatly improve economic stability, employment and energy supply security in the bloc.

A group of European renewable energy leaders including the European Wind Energy Association, European Renewable Energies Federation and the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation, have written an open letter to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso appealing for greater ambition on renewables.

In the letter the organizations construe appreciation of the EU’s current strategy to reduce European dependence on fossil fuels, which they believe are responsible for worsening price volatility and geo-political risk - as most recently demonstrated by the Ukraine crisis' impact on fuel prices.

But in order to assure Europe's energy security, the signatories stress EU strategy must also consider infrastructure investment and bold policy to support the rapid deployment of renewables.

Economic benefits

Explaining how the accelerated shift to cleaner energy will deliver solid commercial gains, they write: “In 2010 alone, the use of renewable energy avoided import fuel costs of €30 billion in the EU, especially in the electricity and heating sectors. But Europe can go much further. An ambitious and clear-sighted approach on the increased use of renewable sources is essential to shift Europe’s energy balance towards domestic, clean and abundant resources.

“As stated in the European Commission’s Impact Assessment for the 2030 Climate and Energy Framework, a 30% renewable target would mean 26% less gas imports than today, and a higher target would mean even lower imports. The Commission’s proposed minimum share of 27% would reduce imports by just 9%. What is more, ambitious objectives for renewable energy would significantly reduce Europe’s trade deficit, improve economic stability, boost employment and secure cost-effective energy supplies both in the short and long term.

“Today, the price of some renewable energy sources is already cost-competitive or sometimes even lower than that of conventional fuel generation, while for the other renewable technologies prices are rapidly approaching cost-competitiveness. It is high time to remove the remaining barriers in Europe’s energy system to fully exploit this potential.”

Energy security

The open letter comes a week after G7 energy ministers concluded a crucial meeting in Rome, Italy, where they met to discuss how Europe can cut its dependency on Russian natural gas supplies. 

The leaders released a joint statement declaring their commitment to bolstering collective energy security across the G7 - which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US - through boosting renewables and energy efficiency, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

Following the meeting, UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey reiterated the group's support for clean energy to solve energy security issues, such as that triggered by the Ukraine crisis, in a press statement: “Today in Rome, the G7 has started a process of disarmament to prevent energy being used as a weapon in the future. [...] The principles that will guide our work over the months and years ahead are diversified energy supplies, more homegrown energy, better infrastructure to link our markets, reducing our energy needs through energy efficiency, and the powerful role clean energy technologies have to play."

He added: “We recognize that our goals on energy security and climate security are strongly linked. Investing in homegrown clean energy and energy efficiency across our economies is fundamental to greater energy security, just as it is to fighting climate change."

However, the Minister's statement clashes with a shock announcement yesterday from the UK government to curb subsidies for large-scale solar farms. The legislation could stunt renewable energy expansion in the UK, which was on track to be the biggest solar market in the EU this year. The government expressed concerns the farms would outstrip their available budget.

Research contradicting the UK's concerns was released yesterday by the International Energy Agency. The energy experts reemphasized the ample opportunities of low carbon growth by revealing that strong investment in clean energy could result in savings of US$71 trillion to the global economy, a figure which far outweighs the initial spend.

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By Clare Saxon

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