IN DEPTH: RE's EU policy chance

In a last minute addition to the European heads of state meeting in Brussels last week, leaders stated the need for a “supportive EU framework for advancing renewable energies”.

Although they postponed  reaching a final agreement, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy says that the Council will have a deal on a new climate and energy framework “no later than October 2014”.

EU minds have been focused on reducing their dependence on Russian energy.

Longer-term, that means boosting “indigenous supplies”, which include renewable energy and shale gas, exploring how much US gas could be shipped to Europe, and before that looking to the Gulf for liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“This extra time could be a golden opportunity for pro-renewables countries like Germany, Denmark and Portugal to rally round and start fighting for greater ambition for renewables and the energy security they bring,” says Thomas Becker, chief executive of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

“The conclusions show that heads of state are wising up to the energy challenges that Europe is facing,” he adds. “I think the situation in Ukraine is proving a sobering experience for policymakers over the frailty of Europe’s energy security. We must act and we must do it now.”

EWEA asserts that a 30% renewables target would reduce gas imports by almost three times more than the 27% target put forward by the European Commission in January, creating 568,000 more jobs and saving €260bn extra in fossil fuel imports.

EU leaders have agreed to accelerate work to upgrade cross-border energy networks in order to reduce individual member states’ vulnerability to supply cuts, and speed up building new LNG terminals to diversify suppliers.

Recharge Insight director Robert Clover says in a new note on the subject that moves to decrease dependency on Russia could provide some upsides for European renewables targets.

Clover adds: "The good news for renewables, especially wind, is that the competitive position of all renewables technologies will probably improve as we move forward, and wind onshore is already more competitive than new-build gas generation assets, and by 2020 offshore wind will be.

"In other words, Insight believes there is little chance that European LNG imports or shale gas production will cause a significant change in the competitive dynamics of renewables."

However it plays out, energy policy could be the one of the strongest weapons in the EU's armoury, as full-scale economic sanctions look unlikely.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany will limit business ties with Russia because of the situation in Ukraine, but she has also stated that full sanctions would be a last resort.

Politicians in the UK are aware that any sanctions that hit the Russian oil businesses could damage BP.

They are also worried over upsetting the City of London which has proved a big magnet for Russian money.

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