Europe is turning clean and green

Sep 17, 2002 02:00 AM

As the United States continues to tie its future to the exploration and development of fossil fuels Europe, with a rich tradition of institutional environmentalism, is turning clean and green. Europe has long been the leader in developing renewable resources as a replacement for fossil fuels.
Some thirty years ago Denmark became a trendsetter when it appointed the first cabinet level environment minister. Today Denmark gets 15 % of its power from over 2,300 wind turbines located in coastal and rural areas.
This commitment to wind power has propelled Denmark into the world leader as a manufacturer of wind turbines as it expects to capture over 60 % of the growing market over the next year. In stark contrast to Denmark, which expects its wind power to supply over 50 % of its energy needs by 2025 and Germany, Europe’s largest producer of wind power, the United States is getting only .1 % of its power from wind.

Green forces are sweeping the European Community where 170 energy companies recently agreed on methodology for certification of renewable energy (RECS). That news, along with a recent survey indicating that German companies believe they would gain from mandatory EU a climate trading scheme and Spain’s approval of a ten year energy infrastructure plan that calls for greater dependency on renewables, sends a signal that Europe’s role as the leader in clean and green technologies is here to stay.
The RECS (Renewable Energy Certification System) reached its first goal as more than 1,500 GWh of RECS certificates have been traded internationally. Already more than 6 mm certificates of 1 MWh have been issued. Major producing countries are Norway, Sweden, Finland and Germany.

A RECS certificate is evidence of the production of renewable energy, and provides a methodology for trading or otherwise using it separate to the associated physical energy. This enables a market for renewable energy to be created, so promoting the development of new renewable energy capacity in Europe.
The RECS system provides a framework for the guarantee of origin, which can be used by individual member states. The RECS system is now operational in most of the EU countries. More than 170 utilities and other energy companies are members of RECS. During the test phase, which started at January 1st 2001 and will end at December 31st 2002, 37 of them have actively traded RECS certificates.

The system will help member states to reach their indicative targets as indicated in the EU directive on renewable energy sources. According to this directive, all member states must put into place a system of guarantee of origin by October 2003.
In Germany a study by the Wuppertal Institute shows that many German companies now believe they would benefit from a mandatory EU climate emission trading scheme, The results "question the common impression that a large share of German companies would fear the costs of emission trading", the institute concludes.
Germany has been a principal opponent of European Commission efforts to introduce a mandatory-participation carbon dioxide trading system from 2005. Major industry federations there have come out against the plan for fear that it will undermine existing energy efficiency agreements concluded nationally.

The Wuppertal survey says that companies' knowledge of the consequences of emissions trading is "very limited" and that they "do not properly participate" in policy formation by their trade associations. In fact, according to the survey, companies "do not have a common preference for one policy instrument", though it appears that "a mandatory trading scheme would be preferred, while voluntary participation was criticized for being sub-optimal".
The survey, “Attitudes of German companies regarding the implementation of an emissions trading policy,” illustrates that the diversity of opinions on the issue is very high and concludes, “the successful international climate negotiations as well as the current German climate protection strategy, increases the probabilitythat an emissions trading scheme will be implemented in a few years.”
Meanwhile, the Spanish government approved a ten year energy infrastructure plan predicting sustained rises in energy and electricity consumption over the next decade and significantly increased dependence on gas and renewables at the expense of coal and nuclear.

The plan forecasts an annual 3.7 % rise in demand for electricity. To meet this the government wants to see an increase of "at least 30 %" in non-renewable generating capacity through the construction of gas-fired power stations, and a doubling of the renewables share of the energy market to 12 % by 2011.
As expected the plan immediately drew fire from Greenpeace. The organization attacked the plan, saying it would "enormously increase [Spain's] contribution to global warming and allow energy profligacy to carry on rising".
The group calculates that the plan would entail a net annual increase in carbon dioxide emissions of 18 mm tons and a 58 % rise in emissions fromthe electricity sector compared with 1990. A spokesman for the economy ministry stressed that the plan would nevertheless "allow Spain to meet its Kyoto commitments".

Spain's economic growth and accelerated industrialization associated with EU membership have fuelled energy demand, up 75 % since the mid-1970s. Spain is highly dependent on imported oil, leaving the country economically vulnerable to world oil price fluctuations. Further energy demand increases are expected to be met largely with natural gas imports.
The increasing use of natural gas has created a new dependency on Algeria, from which Spain obtains 60 % of its natural gas imports. With an extensive gas network now in place, Spain's demand for natural gas is expected to increase dramatically during the next few years. Spain has the fifth largest electricity market in Europe (behind Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy), and it is growing quickly.

Electricity demand is estimated to have grown by 5.4 % in 2001 to about 205 bn kW hours. Spain's electricity market is privatising ahead of the schedule mandated by the EU. A 1996 EU directive required that at least 26.48 % of electricity sales in member countries be open to competition, beginning in February 1999.
This requirement increased to about 28 % in February 2000 and will grow to 33 % in 2003. Spain already has surpassed the 2003 requirement. The Spanish electricity sector is in the midst of restructuring. There are five major utility companies in Spain, in descending order of size: the formerly state-held Endesa, Iberdrola, Union Fenosa, Hidrocantabrico, and the newly independent Viesgo.

Source: EyeforEnergy
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