|Sustainable Energy News - No. 11 November 1995 (INFORSE, 1995)|
|Regional News- Europe|
By Gunnar B. Olesen, OVE, Denmark INforSE-Europe Coordinator
Questions on atomic power spurred a long debate during the last preparations for the Conference of the Environmental Ministers from 52 European countries plus USA and Canada. The decision of the host country, Bulgaria, to start their oldest and most dangerous reactor, Kozloduy 1, shortly before the conference, added an extra dimension to the debates. Regarding energy, the ministers agreed at October 23-25 in Sofia that: · unsafe nuclear installations should be phased out as soon as possible, in particular unsafe nuclear reactors. In implementing this, special emphasis should be placed on development of new and renewable sources of energy and on enhancement of energy efficiency (Ministerial Declaration, reaffirming the agreement from the previous ministerial meeting in Luzern).
· 8 countries are now specifically against nuclear power
(Ministerial Declaration, footnote).
· a European energy conservation strategy should be prepared and adopted for substantial reduction of primary energy use by 2010 (Environmental Program for Europe EPE).
· they will support the Berlin Mandate with a view to having a protocol to the Climate Convention in 1997 (EPE).
· they will take into account-the possibilities for reducing the volume of transport (EPE).
· they will promote the use of economic instruments in energy and transport sectors, such as C02/energy tax (to achieve Climate Convention commitments) and international air fuel taxation (EPE).
From the NGO side, it was also proposed to start processes for actually closing down specific nuclear power plants. While this was not included in the official statements, some countries were open to starting informal discussions on the topic.
Active NGO participation
The conference and its preparation have admitted more NGO participation than have most other intemational processes. In addition, the environmental NGOs held a parallel conference, at which a NGO declaration was adopted before the ministers met and a number of interesting workshops took place. There were workshops on assessment of renewable energy in Central and Eastem Europe
(INforSE-Europe project, see Sustainable Energy News No. 9 and on the en v iron mental space concept.
Next Conference in Denmark
The next Pan - European Environmental Ministers' Conference will be in May, 1998 in Denmark. For this conference, the ministers promised large participation for NGOs and eventually a special role in evaluation of the implementation of the new guidelines for public participation that the ministers adopted. These guidelines will be the basis for a convention in 1998.
The Slovak government is now trying to finish the Mochovce nuclear power plant with funding from Russia, the Czech Republic, and Western commercial banks. Lending offers have been received from Russia and from the Czech Republic, but they are not sufficient to finish the plant. The key question for the project, at the moment, seems to be whether any Westem banks will risk financing a Russian designed nuclear power plant to be finished by Skoda. The anti-Mochovce campaign continues, coordinated by Slovak NGOs and Global 2000 in Vienna.
Corn piled by Gunnar B. Olesen, OVE, Denmark, INforSE-Ewope Coordinator
EU Commission Cuts Renewables Funding 18 Million ECU
In spite of decisions of the European Union (EU) Council of Ministers and the EU Parliament, the EU Commission decreased the support for research and development in renewable energy in the Joule project. While it was decided to give renewable energy 60% of the support, the Commission decided to give only 42% of the budget, or 18.4 million ECU, less than decided by Council and Parliament. Apparently, Commission officials have altered evaluations from technical experts to reduce the number of renewable energy projects with good marks in the evaluation-procedure for the funding.
The Commission is now investigating the case. As a first result of these investigations, the leader of the office for renewable energy R&D, Wolfgang Palz, was replaced from his position. He is accused of giving out information that made the public aware of these strange procedures in the Commission's General Directorate for Research, DGXII.
INforSE - Europe and many other organizations have complained of this action of the Commission, pointing out that it undermines the decision structure of the EU. INforSE - Europe sent an open letter to the Commission, demanding that the missing funds for renewable energy R&D be compensated with new tender for renewable energy projects, funded from other budget lines, e.g., from funds originally allocated to nuclear R&D.
A new compromise proposal is under discussion for the EU internal market on electricity. In this proposal, environmental concerns and obligations to buy electricity based on renewable energy are part of the utilities' public service obligations. It is up to each country to decide how much renewable energy it wants. In addition to the renewable energy obligations, the directive will allow for free access of electricity across borders from utility to utility based on cheapest production costs.
The proposal still has a number of unsolved questions, especially regarding the "single buyer" concept, where one utility can be the buyer of electricity from all independent producers. The proposal will be discussed by the EU energy ministers on December 14. This meeting will, at best, lead to a common agreement that could result in a principal decision on a directive next summer.
EU funding for promotion and dissemination of energy technologies is now available under the Thermie program, administered by the EU Commission's General Directorate for Energy, DGXVII. The framework budget for Thermie is 532 million ECU, covering renewable energy, rational use of energy, and fossil fuels for the period 1994-98. The coming round of project proposals has a deadline of February 1, 1996.
More Info: EU-Commission, DGXVII, Thermie, 200 rue de la Loi, 1049 Brussels, Belgium, fax +32-2-295 0577.