Expansion in renewables good for Europe?s climate and competitiveness

 Europe’s renewable energy landscape, already expanding steadily, is readying itself for further growth. At the end of June this year all 27 member states were set to hand-in their National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs) containing the steps they will take to reach their ambitious renewable energy targets by 2020. While these plans are still being analysed, it is clear that the NREAPs are a good thing for the renewables sector and protecting our increasingly fragile climate.

Speaking at a Friends of Europe debate, Adam Brown, Senior Energy Analyst at the International Energy Agency (IEA) said: “The IEA’s view is that a huge expansion in renewables is essential to get anywhere near the energy mix which will allow the climate to be managed in a sensible way.”

But it’s not just the climate that will benefit from the renewable expansion that the NREAPs will encourage: Europe can work for its own competitive interests. Philip Lowe, European Commission Director General for Energy, told Europe to “think about developing renewables not just in terms of climate change but also as just plain and simple self-interest in competitive global markets.”

This fact is evident in the wind power sector where, if Europe does not invest in keeping its position as world market leader now, countries like China could step in and overtake Europe’s longstanding lead.

“The larger the renewables industry in Europe becomes, the sooner European industry can benefit from economies of scale, ultimately making renewables more competitive,” Paul Rübig, MEP, member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, said.

Speaking at the same debate, Lowe conceded that a better climate of investment in renewables is needed. “We must fight to make investment in renewables and infrastructures a realistic proposal for bankers,” he said. The NREAPs create some certainty for those investing in renewables in Europe, Lowe added.

Brown encouraged investment in technologies that are already well developed – like wind energy. “Too often we focus on things that are difficult,” he said.

Willy De Backer, Head of the Greening Europe Forum at Friends of Europe, rounded off the debate with a robust statement: “renewables have gone from being a sideshow to being the key solution, together with energy efficiency, for the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

By Zoë Casey, blog.ewea.org