Europe Tries to Replace Fossil Fuels With Sustainable Energy

BRUSSELS, Belgium, July 18, 2005 (ENS) - Europeans are going to hear a lot more about how to achieve sustainable energy consumption - installing energy saving lamps, replacing the old boiler, getting rid of the old fridge, checking the pressure of car tires, insulating the roof. The promotion is part of a new Sustainable Energy Europe campaign launched today by the European Commission that will support energy conservation and efficiency.

Over the next four years, Europe's executive branch will promote action to help the EU meet its energy policy aims - an increase in the share of renewable energy up to 12 percent by 2010 and the saving of 20 percent of energy consumption by 2020.

Starting the four year clock ticking today, Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said, “This campaign will promote better living standards, stimulate economic growth, create jobs and enhance the competitive position of European industry on world markets.”


European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs of Latvia rolled out a new sustainable energy program today. (Photo courtesy European Commission)
Over the course of the campaign, the European Commission intends to oversee the installation of 15,000 megawatts of new wind energy generation and the construction of 450 new combined biomass heat and power plants.

A five-fold increase is expected in the production capacity of bioethanol, and a three-fold increase in the production capacity of biodiesel.

The campaign aims to raise the awareness of decision makers at local, regional, national and European levels about sustainable energy. It is geared to ensure a strong level of public awareness, understanding and support for the changes that are ahead as Europe weans itself away from oil and coal and substitutes renewables, efficiency and conservation.

The campaign will work to spread best practices, and stimulate an increase in private investment in sustainable energy technologies.

The Sustainable Energy Partnerships are the main instruments of the campaign. The partners will be organizations that are currently implementing, or planning to implement, a project or program that will impact the energy environment in the European Union.

The core message of the the Sustainable Energy Europe campaign is, said Piebalgs, that, “Intelligent energy production and consumption will change the European energy landscape forever.”

The Sustainable Energy Europe 2005-2008 Campaign has been broken down into nine main campaigning areas - regions, cities, islands and rural areas, communities aiming at 100 percent renewable energy supply, transport, buildings, lighting systems and appliances, co-operation with developing countries, and finally, promotion and communication.

Within the campaign, benchmarks for 2008 are provided, against which to measure the progress of sustainable energy actions. They are intended to serve as goals for decision makers and planners.

An annual conference and Sustainable Energy Awards are planned as events around which to structure the campaign.

power lines

Twelve percent of the power carried by these transmission lines is expected to be generated by renewable sources by 2012. (Photo by Ian Britton courtesy FreeFoto)
The campaign supports a target of at 20 percent energy saving by 2020 established by the Green Paper on Energy Efficiency that the Commission adopted in June. The Commission expects this target to be met in a cost effective way through changes in consumer behavior and energy efficient technologies.

Among benchmarks relative to energy performance in buildings, around five million inspections and assessments of heating systems will take place, two million Energy Performance Certifications on smaller buildings will be issued, and the construction of 50,000 very low energy houses is expected.

The 20 percent saving would allow the EU to save an estimated €60 billion on its energy bill. This will in turn represent investments in the EU economy where European industry can strengthen its competitiveness as outlined in the Lisbon Strategy.

“This energy efficiency initiative will help Europe achieve two fundamental goals of the Lisbon Strategy," said Commissioner Piebalgs, "creating more growth and better jobs. It will also help Europe meet its Kyoto commitments."

The European Union, with its increasingly integrated economies and energy sectors, is the world’s second largest energy consumer behind the United States.

In 2002, EU energy consumption consisted of 40 percent oil, 22 percent natural gas, 16 percent coal, 13 percent nuclear, four percent hydro, and one percent renewables other than hydroelectric power.

Current trends point in the direction of ever increasing energy use with an overall level of consumption in the EU that could increase by 10 percent in the coming 15 years if nothing is done.

With the Green Paper, the Commission is proposing to reverse the trend and explains how it is feasible to reach 20 percent energy savings by 2020 in a cost effective way.


A ray of sunlight falls on a wind turbine on the High Volts Wind Farm, Potters Farm, Elwick, Hartlepool, England. (Photo courtesy FreeFoto)
Half of the savings could be reached through a full implementation by member states of legislation already adopted, or about to be adopted, on buildings, domestic appliances or energy services.

To save the other 10 percent, "Europe now needs to be imaginative and proactive," the commissioner said.

The options for energy saving listed by the Green Paper embrace all sectors - production and end use, industry and services, households and buildings, transport and international relations. They concern all stakeholders, from national, regional and local decisionmakers, to banks, international institutions and individual consumers.

The Commission suggests policy tools that include financial incentives, regulations, setting of objectives, information and training, and international dialogue.

"Industry can also improve its production processes," said Piebalgs. "Both citizens and industry need to be stimulated by public authorities to do these energy savings."

Member states might establish Annual Energy Efficiency Action Plans at national level, the Commission suggests.

Energy pricing and taxation might be improved to ensure that the polluter really pays, and public procurement could be utilized to kick-start new technologies.

The Green Paper is intended to be the point of departure for a broad debate involving all stakeholders.

In 2006, at the end of the consultation process, the Commission will come forward with a comprehensive Action Plan which will identify measures which should be put forward. In order to prioritize the options mentioned, a thorough cost benefit analysis will be carried out.

The campaign loosely matches the goals for energy efficiency issued by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a coalition of 143 member organizations in 31 countries.

The EEB is urging the Commission to finalize the an energy law with mandatory 2.5 percent annual efficiency targets and 3.5 percent annual targets for the public sector.

The EEB would like to see a phase out of energy tax reductions and exemptions by 2010. The coalition recommends that all state aid for coal mining be ended no later than 2010. In the EEB's view nuclear power is no solution for Europe's energy needs. The coalition says preferential regulation for nuclear energy should be halted.

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