EU renewables targets may not reduce carbon dioxide emissions

Carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generated by States of the EU could rise if a Directive on the promotion of renewable energy technologies is adopted.

Carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generated by Member States of the European Union could rise if a Directive on the promotion of renewable energy technologies is adopted in its present form, according to a report published today, 10 November 2000, by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The proposed Directive will set targets for each Member State, such that renewable sources will account for 22.1 per cent of electricity generated in the EU by 2010.

But submissions to the joint working group have suggested that at least one Member State may not achieve their target.

The majority of the 40 submissions expressed concern that the framework of economic instruments will prevent the renewables industry from developing at the rate necessary for the UK to reach its own 10 per cent target by 2010.

‘Most renewable technologies are not inherently competitive with fossil fuels if emissions of greenhouse gases are not penalised,’ said Sir Eric Ash CBE FRS FREng, who chaired the working group that prepared the report. ‘Member States are each developing their own frameworks of economic instruments to overcome the deficit.’

‘We believe, however, that the EU needs to create more of a level playing field by introducing within the next five years an upstream carbon tax on primary fuels for all Member States,’ said Sir Eric.

Even if the UK and other Member States do achieve their renewables targets, this will not guarantee a drop in emissions if electricity demand continues to rise, the report concludes.

‘The Directive represents a central part of the EU’s strategy to meet its Kyoto targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are being discussed in The Hague next week,’ said Sir Eric. ‘But the Directive is flawed because the target for renewables will not be set within an overall limit to the amount of carbon dioxide that results from electricity generation,’ said Sir Eric.

‘We are also concerned that the EU’s strategy does not include measures to encourage other sources of energy, such as large hydroelectric schemes, energy from waste, or nuclear power, that could be used to replace fossilfuels with minimal or no emissions of greenhouse gases,’ said Sir Eric.

‘It is clear that this Directive alone will not be sufficient to achieve the reductions in carbon dioxide emissions necessary to meet the targets set out in the Kyoto Protocol, or more ambitious long-term cuts,’ said Sir Eric. ‘As an additional measure, we recommend more funding for research into the potential of sequestering the carbon dioxide, for example in deep geological reservoirs.’

The European Parliament and Council of Ministers are currently considering the proposed Directive. MEPs will be asked to vote on it later this month.

For more information please contact:

Bob Ward at the Royal Society Tel: 020 7451 2516/2508 email: bob.ward@royalsoc.ac.uk