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EU leaders urged to adopt 100% renewable energy target

By Nilima Choudhury

A new lobby group has called for regional, national and European-wide legislators to achieve a 100% renewable energy target within the next four decades.

The Global Alliance for 100% Renewable Energy, founded by World Future Council (WFC) and research institute Fraunhofer ISE among others, has criticised European governments of being the main hurdle in successfully combating climate change.

Six years ago the EU agreed to cut its emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020 and raise its renewable energy levels by the same amount. France and Germany have signalled they are willing to look at new clean energy targets for 2030, but the UK has argued it is up to individual countries to decide.

The Alliance stated at its inauguration today that renewable energy is the key to Europe’s future economic and industrial development.

Speaking to RTCC, Anna Leidreiter, Policy Officer of Climate and Energy at WFC said: “The challenge has never been technical but actually the political will to implement enabling policy frameworks.

“Britain is a good (even though in a negative way) example how crucial political will is. The government’s current position on shale gas and nuclear power is another diversion from what should be a complete decarbonisation and sustainability commitment,” said Leidreiter.

The British government is spending too much time on shale gas and nuclear power rather than committing to sustainability. (Source: UK Parliament)

She notes that European countries already rely heavily on renewables proving that this ambitious goal is already becoming a reality. WFC states the success story of those regions results from high citizen participation.

“Two countries that are already powered by 100% renewable energy are Norway and Iceland,” said Leidreiter.

“Other European countries also rely heavily on renewables. Denmark uses renewable sources for 45% of its energy: wind (30%) and biomass (15%). Besides that Denmark is the only European country with a 100% RE target for electricity, heating/cooling sector and transportation by 2050.

“Scotland has a 100% RE target in power sector by 2020 and Upper Austria in power and heat sectors by 2030. Spain already provided its 47 million people with 31% renewable electricity in 2011. Italy, with 60 million inhabitants, now sources 17% of its electricity renewably. Germany is on 19% and in the electricity sector even at 25%.”

EU renewables reign

A report from energy consultancy firm PA concurs with the WFC.

European countries may have been the safest havens for renewable investments in the past but PA says they are now: “losing momentum as a result of policy responses to the financial and debt crisis. Policymakers have significantly scaled back on expensive feed-in-tariff programmes in many countries, notably Spain, Germany and Austria.”

According to PA, China is the leader of the pack when it comes to getting a good internal rate of return for renewable energy investments thanks to government support.

The report does recognise clear positives about Europe’s approach to renewables: “Sweden, Denmark and the UK have achieved a high position in our ranking through a combination of good-quality renewable resources plus the effective use of market mechanisms in the form of renewable energy credits.”

“Global investors and international funds are showing significant interest in UK energy infrastructure assets, largely due to the planned closure of existing thermal and nuclear generation and the policy support for new low-carbon plants offered by the Energy Bill,” said PA energy expert Mark Livingstone.

For Europe to compete against high-rollers like China, Leidreiter states European governments need to encourage certainty in the market by creating a level playing field for renewable energy and conventional energy to attract investment.

“Governments throughout Europe act in the interest of the conventional energy sector. A strong political commitment is necessary and setting a 100% renewable energy target is the first step,” said Leidreiter.

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