“As a response to the threat of climate change, the EU has made clear its priority to develop and deploy renewable energy systems by approving directive 2001/77/EC, which included the target that 12% of the EU energy or 22,1% of its electricity has to come from renewable sources by 2010.” (Froggatt, 2005)

At the European congress for renewable energy in 2004 the member states agreed on a binding target that a 20% share of the energy consumption has to come from renewable sources in 2020. (Loyola de Palacio, 2004)

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It seems like the EU is on track meeting the agreements which were made in the Kyoto Protocol, to reduce the emissions of green house gasses by 8 % by 2012. Or maybe not? Because when having a better look into the EU energy budget, it shows that the renewable energy and energy efficiency research will only receive 31% of the sum available for nuclear research. (EREC, 2007)

I was wondering how the EU can keep its promise to lower the emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy while they are not making significant changes in the budget? Is it not necessary to change or is the EU still a little in denial?

This paper will first, give an explanation of the vocabulary. Second, the current situation of the EU and it’s energy policy. Third, how the market demand from both industries and citizens is behaving. Fourth, the EU funding is discussed. The fifth chapter will describe the mission which the EU could follow in order to meet the targets set for 2020. As a conclusion I will answer the question: “a better environment starts with the EU” based on the findings in this paper.

1) Explanation of vocabulary

Renewable energy

To create renewable energy natural sources are used. The sources are wind, sunlight, tides and geothermal heat. These sources are converted to solar power, wind power hydroelectricity, biomass and bio fuels. Today 13% of the primary energy is coming from renewable sources worldwide. The largest sector within the renewable energy is biomass and the second largest is hydropower providing 3% of the world energy demand. (wikipedia 2,2007)

Fossil energy

Fossil energy is created from oil, coal and natural gas. These are non-renewable sources, and are causing global warming. 90% of the greenhouse gas emissions comes from these sources. Although, it is the world’s largest provider of energy. (Wikipedia 3,2007)

Nuclear energy

Nuclear energy is gained from a nuclear chain reaction. This controlled reaction will create heat, this heat is used to boil water, which will produce steam. The steam is used to drive a steam turbine, which can be used to generate electricity. Nuclear energy is responsible for almost 16% of the world consumption. Nuclear energy is very controversial because of the risks it carries. When things go wrong in one of the power plants it will effect a lot of the world its citizens. (wikipedia 4,2007)

Kyoto protocol

In 1997 the United Nations framework on climate control signed the Kyoto protocol, which came in to force in 2005. The protocol is seen as the international response to climate change. The objective of the Kyoto protocol is to reduce the greenhouse gases by at least 5% at 2012. The two countries who didn’t sign the protocol are Australia and the USA, of which the last is the world largest polluter. (European commission, 2007)

Treaty of Amsterdam

The treaty of Amsterdam was signed in 1997. In this meeting the EU decided on some substantial changes to the treaty on the European union. One of these changes was that the EU added the principles of sustainable development, which was the beginning of the target set in 2004 which stated that 20% of the energy has to come from renewable sources. (wikipedia, 2007)

European Conference for Renewable Energy

In January 2004 the European Commission organized a conference in cooperation with EREC (European Renewable Energy council) In this conference the parties agreed on setting a target for 2020 to encourage the use of renewable energy. The target is to produce 20% of the energy consumption from renewable sources. Also they decided on a legal binding minimum of 10%. (Loyola de Palacio, 2004)

2) Why worry about renewable energy?

The important factor about renewable energy is that it will help reverse the process of global warming. Global warming is referring to an average increase of temperature on the earths surface and oceans. This phenomenon seems to occur since the pre-industrialisation, due to a surplus of greenhouse gasses produced by people and industries. Since the earth also has to cope deforestation the carbon dioxide will remain in the atmosphere, and can not be balanced out in a natural process. (CSIRO,2007)

When the earth is warming up it could lead to huge catastrophes and it will lead to a change in climate. Evidence of that can already be seen in the world today. According to Al gore’s “an inconvenient truth”, glaciers are melting, the poles are melting, sea level is rising, and animals and plants are forced from their habitat and moving closer to the poles. On top of that more extreme weather will occur, which will lead to extreme droughts and rain, floats and hurricanes from the category 4 and 5 are doubled. (Gore, 2006)

To reverse this all the world has to attack the cause of this situation, starting right now.

3) European Union vs. Energy

Energy policy is becoming a major issue on the EU agenda. Especially since the pressure from citizens, environmental activists like Al Gore and the threat for global warming has increased significantly.

Since the EU signed the Kyoto Protocol they are working on the decrease of greenhouse gas emissions. Besides the Kyoto protocol, the EU decided that 20% of the energy comes from renewable energy by 2020. The establishment of this target lies in the treaty of Amsterdam. Here the EU added the principles of sustainable development (Wikipdia, 2007). At the congress of renewable energy in 2004 they evolved the principles into what they are now.

At this moment 6% of all the energy within the EU comes from renewable sources. The largest source of renewable energy in the EU Is wind energy. (Ren 21, 2006) Relating to the Kyoto protocol, the EU is still 6,8% above the target1.

The EU vision on energy is that besides development of renewable energy, it is equally important to deliver secure and substantial energy. (Froggatt, 2005)

4) Market situation

Although the global warming is becoming a serious threat for the environment and the world its citizens, the market still favours the traditional energy sources. This are sources like fossil; coal, oil and natural gas, and nuclear energy. The reason why the market favours these sources is because of the huge economic advantages they benefit of, since the environmental costs and the nuclear waste costs are not included in economic analyses. Funds for building new power plants do not include the cost of cleaning up the waste. The waste is dumped in the sea, stored in power plants or buried under the ground, and up till now there is no clear plan to what to do with it. According to Froggatt when considering nuclear energy, “it will take decades after closing down the facilities until nuclear waste is dealt with”. (Froggatt, 2005)

According to a survey by EUROBAROMETER, 61% of the EU population prefer a cleaner energy in stead of nuclear energy and 90% supports the development of new and cleaner energy technologies and products. 30% of these people won’t mind paying more tax to accomplish that.

5) EU funding

The EU makes budgets to finance the energy research and development. The money goes to the FP7, which is short for the Seventh Framework program for research and technological development. This EU instrument is in charge over the budget for the period 2007-2013. The FP7 covers five departments; 1: cooperation (which include energy), 2: people, 3: ideas, 4: capacities, and 5: nuclear. The nuclear consists of two departments, the nuclear research training and the Joint Research Centre (JRC). The fifth department covers besides nuclear energy research also renewable energy research (under the department of JCR). However, only the nuclear research will receive funding from the EURATOM.

The budget for the period 2007-2013 is � 50,5 billion from the European Commission (EC) and for the period 2007-2011 the budget from EURATOM is �2,7 billion. (European commission, 2007) This means that the nuclear energy research will benefit from ‘double’ financial support, which results in a budget twice as big as the whole renewable energy research budget together. Despite the claims for encouraging the renewable energy research, the division of the budget is not changing. I feel it is necessary to point out the fact that this is only the budget for research and development, and not the budget for energy supply.

6) What should be the EU mission?

In line with its treaties, the EU has to respond to security of energy supply, economic growth, sustainable development, climate change, employment and technological development. (EREC, 2007)

The development of renewable energy has an important role in this issue. The renewable energy industry is growing rapidly, the industry realised a tenfold increase in turnover from �1,5 billion in 1990 to 20 billion in 2006 (EREC, 2007). But the industry is not exploring all its opportunities, this is due a lack of funding. The main focus of the industry lies on electricity. However, the largest part of the energy consumption is used for heating and hot water production. There are huge unexplored opportunities in this area, but it will be difficult to explore them without extra funding.

Therefore, all the sectors within the renewable energy segment should have the opportunity to develop themselves. This will lead to 1: reduction of emissions because of the growing supply of renewable energy, 2: increase in jobs in this sector and 3: a huge step in the direction of meeting the targets set for 2020. In order to get to this point it will be necessary that the budget coming from the EU is divided more equally over the renewable research and the traditional. (Greenpeace, 2007)

As a second step the EU need to monitor the spending of the budget, both renewable and traditional. This way they can make sure that the focus lies on new and cleaner technologies and a more efficient way to use the existing energies.

Greenpeace wrote a report in cooperation with EREC, called the energy revolution. This report can be used as a guide line for the EU, because the report describes how to make it possible to have 50% of all the energy produced by renewable sources in 2050. One of the requirements Greenpeace has is to abolish the EURATOM treaty and make funding more equal. (Greenpeace, 2007)

7) Conclusion

The EU has a lot of good ideas how to ‘conquer’ the threat from global warming. First, the EU signed the Kyoto protocol to decrease greenhouse gases and after, the EU decided on having a 20% share of renewable energy in the total energy supply market. Despite of this, the EU still gives the major part of the funding to fossil and nuclear researches. To be precise, only the nuclear research receives double the amount of money than renewable energy research.

Although I am in favour of a cleaner environment and also for reducing the greenhouse gases, it seems logical to me that the non-renewable research receives more funding than the renewable energy research. I think this because the non-renewable sector is providing the energy for more than 90% of the European demand. On the other hand, when there is not enough money for the renewable energy sector to develop it self, it can never create a stronger position on the market.

Furthermore, the EREC report states that the renewable energy sector is ‘booming business’ and created a revenue growth of 1000% the last 15 years. On top of that, the European citizens are willing to pay more tax in order to support the renewable energy sector. So even when the EU doesn’t decide to change the budget it will save itself.

To answer the question “a better environment starts at the EU”, I will say yes. Although, at this moment the plans for changing the policies and the behaviour towards cleaner energy are bigger than their actual actions. At least the EU is thinking about this issue. The actions will take some time to implement but I am sure that we can see the results in the near future.

As long as the EU has the environmental topic in its agenda, I think we will be okay. The hardest part of this is to convince all the other counties in the world, because a better environment can start with Europe but it will definitely not end there.


CSIRO. Fact sheet, climate change is real. 2006

EREC – European Renewable Energy Council. 2007 Position_Papers/ SET_Plan_final.pdf

EREC, Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan). May 2007.

EUROBAROMETER, Attitudes on issues related to EU Energy Policy.

European Commission. FP7 Tomorrow’s answers starts today. 2007.

European commission. The Kyoto protocol. July 2007.

Froggatt, Antony. “Invest in a clean energy future.” Geenpeace, May 2005.

Gore,al. An inconvenient truth. 2006

Greenpeace. Energy revolution. 2007.

Loyola de Palacio, European Conference for Renewable Energy

‘Intelligent Policy Options’, Berlin, 19-21 January 2004

Ren 21. Renewables, global status report, 2006.

Wikipedia. General European Union policy. October 2007.

Wikipedia 2. Renewable energy. October 2007.

Wikipedia 3. world energy resources and consumption. 2007

Wikipedia 4. nuclear energy. 2007


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