When we speak about the EU and environment the first thing we must get to is the EU Environmental Policy. The aim of this policy is to promote a resource efficient economy whilst protecting the EU population’s health. The essence of cooperation lies in the ability of the EU Member States to work together for a common agreement on environmental matters and then working this policy into a consensus with the international community.
1. How is EU fighting energy pollution?
The EU has stated there must be an extension on the sustainability scheme of solid and gaseous biomass in electricity, heating and cooling processes. There are three principles which a European wide policy on biomass sustainability needs to meet:
· Effectiveness in dealing with problems of sustainable biomass use
· Cost-efficiency in meeting the objectives
· Consistency with existing policies
This approach encourages efficient energy consumption from renewable sources, the improvement of energy supply and the economic stimulation of a dynamic energy sector in which Europe can set an example with.
On 27 March 2013, the European Commission published its first Renewable Energy Progress Report (European Union, 2013) under the framework of the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive. Since the adoption of this directive and the introduction of legally renewable energy targets, most Member States experienced significant growth in renewable energy consumption. 2010 indicators show that the EU as a whole is on its trajectory towards the 2020 targets with a renewable energy share of 12.7%.
An EU paper from which we can take important information is the Renewable Energy Road Map (European Union, 2007c). This road map is an integral part of the review of European energy policy which took place in early 2007 (Energy Package) and it promotes renewable energy sources in the long term strategy. Aiming to enable the EU to meet the twin objectives of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing security of energy supply, it includes the target of producing 20% of total EU energy consumption from renewable energy sources by 2020. As well as measures for promoting renewable energy sources in the electricity, biofuels, heating and cooling sectors, it proposes the creation of a new legislative framework to enhance the promotion and use of renewable energy. This legislation states that each Member State is required to adopt mandatory targets and action plans in line with its potential, these must include specific measures and objectives for the three following sectors: electricity, biofuels, heating and cooling.
Starting January 2014, the EU established new targets in terms of renewable energy resources. The aim is to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and produce 27% of its energy from renewable sources. This is said to be the toughest climate change target ever established anywhere in the world.
2. Policies and measures in the EU
The Commission proposes the following measures to improve the internal market and remove the barriers to developing renewable energy:
· Reducing the administrative burden.
· Improving transparency and provision of information.
· Adjusting and increasing the number of installations and interconnection systems.
· Supporting, promoting and encouraging renewable energy sources throughout different visible actions.
· Encourage dialogue and cooperation at local/national level as well as at the European level with the grid authorities, European electricity regulators and the renewable energy industry, to enable better integration of renewable energy sources into the power grid.
· Encouraging optimal use of the existing financial instruments (Structural and Cohesion Funds) with the focus on supporting research and disseminating the funds between the following technology strategies, Strategic Energy Technology Plan (European Union, 2007a), the Framework Program for Research and Technological Development(European Union, 2007b), the Intelligent Energy for Europe Program (European Union, 2003).
· Ensuring the exchange of best practices between countries.
As a conclusion, all Member States local and regional authorities are encouraged to make maximum use of the instruments available to them and to promote the development of renewable energy sources through administrative simplification and improved planning.
3. Cost – benefit analysis
The costs of having the technological tools to sustain renewable energy processes are very controversial. Some say that they are actually destroying more of the environment because of the carbon produced by these very tools and that the high expensive means there are far better options for investing in sustainability. In reality, these renewable energy sources produce almost zero greenhouse gas emissions and the Commission estimates that the 20% target will make it possible to cut CO2 emissions by 600-900 million tonnes per year, generating savings of between €150 billion and €200 billion. It is estimated that these savings equate to over 250 million TOE (tonne of oil equivalent) per year by 2020, of which 200 million TOE would otherwise have to be imported.
At the moment renewable energies are actually cheaper than coal and nuclear power. There are no input costs for wind and solar energy. For example, while one has to buy coal for a coal-fired power plant to generate electricity (coal mining itself has huge environmental costs), solar and wind energy don’t have input costs as such – sunlight and wind are free, once the costs of the installations are covered.
Additionally, developing the technologies used in the renewable energy sector will create new business opportunities and employment. The United Nations Environment Program (United Nations, 1972), defines such activities as work in the fields, agriculture, manufacturing, development and research, administration and service activities that contribute substantially to the preservation and restoration of the environmental quality asGreen Jobs These jobs help to protect ecosystems and biodiversity, reduce materials and energy and water consumption through high efficiency strategies whilst avoiding all forms of pollution and waste.
The cost of renewable energy has been decreasing for the last 20 years, but it still remains higher than that of conventional energy sources. This issue of the cost difference still lies in the inaccurate analysis made for the differences between the external costs of fossil fuels and the investment in sustainable technology, and short sightedness of behalf of energy companies.
4. Cooperation needed between Member States
At the European level, Member States can benefit from the exchange of an amount of energy from renewable sources using a statistical transfer which means they can set up joint projects concerning the production of electricity and heating from renewable sources and it is also possible to establish cooperation with third countries. There are certain conditions that must be met, according to D4 Report – Design options for cooperation mechanisms between Member States under the new European Renewable EnergyDirective (European Union, 2014).
· The electricity must be consumed in the Community;
· The electricity must be produced by a newly constructed installation (after June 2009);
· The quantity of electricity produced and exported must not benefit from any other support.
5. Guarantee of origin
Each Member State must be able to guarantee the origin of electricity, heating and cooling produced from renewable energy sources. The information contained in these guarantees of origin is normalized and should be recognized in all Member States. It may also be used to provide consumers with information on the composition of the different electricity sources.
6. Access to and operation of the grids
Member States should build the necessary infrastructures for energy from renewable sources in the transport sector. To this end, they should:
· Ensure that operators guarantee the transport and distribution of electricity from renewable sources.
· Provide for priority access for this type of energy.
The Commission makes recommendations related to sustainability and strongly encourages Member States to take them into account in order to ensure consistency between existing or future national sustainability schemes. The recommendations are mainly based on the sustainability scheme included in all the Directives given starting 1997 – 2013. If these schemes are adhered to then it looks bright for the future energy needs of the EU.
In 2014, renewable energy contributed 21.8% of the total amount of energy used in the EU.
Unfortunately, there was a big difference between countries across Europe in terms of renewable energy.
In fact, in some countries there is a high percentage of electricity generated by renewable sources, such as in Austria (66%), Sweden (59.6%), Portugal (56.5%) or my Croatia (35.5%).
Despite the good climatic resources of the Mediterranean area, many countries in Southern Europe don’t have a high percentage of electricity generated from renewable energy, including Cyprus and Malta, which respectively end the list with 3.4% and 0.1%.
How could you explain this issue?
Do you think the European Union should invest money to encourage the production of renewable energy?
How is the situation in your country?