With just over a decade until its first major commitment deadline – to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent and have renewable energy account for 20 percent of energy use by 2020 – there is already speculation within the bloc about whether it is possible to practically achieve the goals, which were announced with great fanfare in March. According to the commission, current trends risk seeing this target missed or the technology for doing so coming from outside the EU.
To tidy up EU energy research the commission suggested setting up a European energy research alliance to make sure there is better co-ordination among the member states as well as establishing a list of priorities for research projects. “The Energy Policy for Europe calls for a new industrial revolution. Like all industrial revolutions, this one is going to be technology driven and it is high time to transform our political vision into concrete actions,” said energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs.
But the commission is hampered by a lack of money and has to resort to creative ways to find cash for research purposes – notably an area that was cut back during the wrangling to work out a multi- annual budget for the EU running from now until 2013. Nevertheless, next year it will set out ideas on financing low carbon technologies. Among the ideas for generating some cash for the area will be trying to involve private equity and venture capital and reducing tax for low carbon technologies.
France tops the spending scale for such technology spending just over 0.05 percent of its GDP in the area, according to 2005 figures based on statistics from 13 member states. It is followed by Finland and Denmark at under 0.04 percent of GDP. Listing the potential ways forward, the commission looks at a number of technologies but for each sector there is normally a drawback. “Lack of social acceptance” is considered an issue for nuclear technology, wind power, hydro power and fossil fuel plants. Meanwhile, “lack of skilled professionals” affects the development of technology in the area of solar power, wind power, solar heating and cooling, geothermal products and nuclear fusion.
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