04 December 2008

EU nears green energy deal

By Pete Harrison, Reuters, Thu Dec 4, 2008 8:13am EST


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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is on the verge of a deal to boost renewable energy after resolving a battle over the controversial issue of biofuels on Thursday, but Italy's demand for a review in 2014 prevented a final agreement.

"We have agreement on everything except the deletion of the review clause," the European Parliament's lead negotiator Claude Turmes told Reuters after closed-door negotiations.

"We are disappointed that because of this sole blockage, the EU's French presidency was unable to take this to a final deal," he added.

The European Commission, which originates EU law, proposed in January that 10 percent of road transport fuel should come from renewable sources by 2020, mindful of climate change and the violent storms and rising sea levels it is expected to bring.

Much of that 10 percent would come from biofuels, creating a huge potential market that is coveted by exporters such as Brazil and Indonesia, as well as EU farming nations.

But environmentalists charged that biofuels made from grains and oilseeds were pushing up food prices and forcing subsistence farmers to expand agricultural land by hacking into rainforests and draining wetlands -- known as "indirect land-use change."

The stand-off over biofuels ended with an agreement that up to almost a third of the EU's 10 percent goal would be met through electric cars and trains.

"The 10 percent agri-fuels target has been seriously undermined," said Turmes.

The European Commission will come forward with proposals in 2010 to limit indirect land-use change, and biofuels from non-food sources will be promoted with a "double bonus" scheme.

Solar Power

Italy's insistence of a review will undermine investment security and puts at risk thousands of new jobs in green industries, said Turmes. It also drew fire from environmental groups.

"The negotiations were not concluded today because of one country, Italy, trying to destabilize the renewables directive in the interest of its large energy companies and against the interest of European citizens, the economy and the climate," said Greenpeace campaigner Frauke Thies.

The EU's overall target of getting 20 percent of energy from renewable energy by 2020 was firmed up and member states will now have to roll out detailed road maps on how to reach their national targets for green energy.

And mechanisms were agreed to improve the access of renewable energy to electricity grids.

Countries will also be able to join forces on renewables, after pressure from Britain, Poland and Germany, which want to team up on EU projects, as well as Italy, which wants to tap into north Africa's large potential for solar power.

The provisional deal will need approval by the European Parliament and all 27 European Union nations before becoming law, but is not expected to change much.

© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved

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