New EU entrants lagging behind on renewables

26 January 2007

Friday 26th January, Brussels - By neglecting the renewable energy sector, new EU entrants Romania and Bulgaria are missing huge opportunities for jobs, investment and energy independence, a joint report by local and European environmental groups revealed today [1]. The research identifies weak legislation, insufficient funding into clean energy sources and long administrative procedures as the main barriers.

Petr Holub, energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Czech Republic said:
"The Balkan countries have huge unexploited potential for renewable energy, so the EU must push national governments to adopt effective support frameworks, such as feed-in tariff laws. EU funds available for the energy sectors in these countries should be used primarily for increasing the use of renewable energy, in addition to cutting energy waste in the first place."

The new report, published by Hnuti DUHA (Friends of the Earth Czech
Republic) in co-operation with regional network Agree.net and national partner organisations [2], argues that in order to trigger widespread deployment of renewable energies, new and improved legislation based on successful examples such as the German feed-in law is an urgent necessity. While it is mainly up to national governments to implement needed policies, it will the EU's responsibility to act as a major driver for change so that the newly accepted countries, Bulgaria and Romania, contribute equally to the community's renewable energy production targets.

The report also analyses Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, revealing that they too are underperforming on renewables. Friends of the Earth has called for the EU to place a firm emphasis on renewable energy development in future accession negotiations.

The five Balkan countries studied have large unexploited potential for new renewable energy resources. The windy shores of the Black Sea and Adriatic Sea are particularly suitable and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) even assessed Bulgaria as "one of the top countries identified for wind energy development" [3]. South Eastern Europe has great potential for solar energy. And large agricultural areas in the region would be well-suited for biomass for energy production, but lie unused.

Current targets for renewable energy in the region are too weak to stimulate progress, believes Friends of the Earth. For example, in Romania's accession treaty, the EU set it a target for 2010 that was so unambitious that by 2005, it had already been achieved by its current large hydropower production.

Weak national legislation is also to blame, the report argues. Bulgaria recently adopted a law based on feed-in tariffs (the most successful model in EU countries). But its effective implementation rests on strong executive decisions about annual tariffs. For its part, Romania has already opted for a quota/certificate system that the European Commission has declared less effective than a feed-in tariff system.

Todor Slavov, energy campaigner at Za Zemiata, Bulgaria said:
"Bulgaria has great potential for all kinds of renewable energy, including wind, solar and biomass. But the government needs to ensure economic viability to spur investments. The newly adopted feed-in tariff scheme is a promising step - but the levels of the tariffs must be sufficient to enable the market to get off the ground. Also, the legal framework to allow non-discriminatory access to the power grid for independent renewable energy producers remains too vague to increase investor confidence."

Ionut Apostol, energy campaigner, Terra Mileniul III, Romania said:
"Hidden subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear power are creating the impression that renewable energy is not competitive in Romania. These distorting subsidies must be eliminated. Instead we need a robust supportive framework that will level out the market distortions in favour for renewable energies."

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Notes for the editor:
[1] Full report is available at:
http://www.agreenet.info/balkan_renewables.pdf

[2] The coalition's partners are Zelena Akcija (Friends of the Earth Croatia), ProAktiva in Macedonia, The Center for Ecology and Energy Tuzla in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Terra Mileniui III in Romania, the Bulgarian environmental group, Za Zemiata.

[3] http://www.ebrdrenewables.com/sites/renew/countries/Bulgaria/default.aspx

 

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