* Oettinger wants green subsidies aligned, not retroactively
* Wants green investment doubled to 70 bln euros a year
* Industry body reports record investment in 2010
(Adds detail, quotes, background)
By Pete Harrison
BRUSSELS, Jan 31 The European Union's energy chief called on
member states to align their subsidies for green energy and ensure overall
investment is doubled to 70 billion euros ($95 billion) a year to meet climate
and energy security goals.
Leaders meet on Friday aiming to reconcile an EU target of getting 20
percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020 with a debt crisis that
has pushed some countries to the financial brink.
Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told reporters: "We have to consider
the financing gap in the energy sector. In 2009, there was 35 billion euros
invested in renewable energy. This will have to be doubled in a few years to 70
billion if we are to provide the low-carbon energy we need."
Europe beat all previous records for constructing renewable power last year,
adding 22.6 gigawatts of new capacity, the European Wind Energy Association
(EWEA) said on Monday. However, new wind power construction slowed by about one
tenth, adding 9.3 gigawatts, the industry body added.
"Better access to financing is urgently needed, and the European Union must
act without delay to prevent Europe losing its leadership in wind power and
other renewable technologies," said EWEA Chief Executive Christian Kjaer.
Subsidies are needed for renewables to compete with fossil fuels which,
according to the International Energy Agency, receive more than five times more
subsidies worldwide. [ID:nLDE6A81BN]
DECADE OF SUBSIDIES
The Commission's strategy paper estimated that unravelling the tangle of
Europe's national subsidies could lead to overall savings of about 10 billion
euros a year, but warned against retroactive tinkering with support schemes.
Typically, EU states support renewable projects at a national level via a
complex toolbox of quotas, grants, tax exemptions and feed-in tariffs.
"Industry has to be able to plan and to invest," said Oettinger. "In Spain
and in the Czech Republic, there have been discussions in parliament about
retrospective changes to help the budgets... We will not accept retrospective
Support schemes in Spain and the Czech Republic have been among the most
successful in Europe, as have those in Germany and the Netherlands, which are
also under review.
Both Spain and the Czech Republic came close last year to hitting their
interim targets for green electricity of 29.4 percent and 8 percent
respectively, Commission data shows.
Environmentalists had feared the Commission would propose a deeper
harmonisation of green support schemes, but welcomed the flexible approach
announced on Monday.
"National support schemes for renewable energy have proved overwhelmingly
successful in promoting the uptake of renewables," said Claude Turmes, a Green
Group member of the European Parliament.
"We welcome that the Commission has acknowledged this and resisted the lobby
by big energy utilities to undermine these national schemes," he added.
Hydropower, electricity from waste and photovoltaics in the Mediterranean
are starting to compete economically with traditional energy sources, but most
other renewable sources will need a decade more of subsidies in Europe, the
(Reporting by Pete Harrison; editing by Rex Merrifield and Jason Neely)