Crimea is RE 'wake-up call' – Garrad

The crisis in Crimea shows how dependent on fossil fuel imports Europe has become – a situation the EU could help to ease by encouraging renewables via an ambitious 2030 target, said European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) president Andrew Garrad.

“The situation in the Crimea is a wake-up call to all of us,” Garrad said during his opening speech at the EWEA 2014 conference that started in Barcelona today.

“It demonstrates the vulnerability of our fossil fuel supply.”

Every EU citizen pays €2 ($2.77) a day for fossil fuels from outside the bloc, Garrad said, adding up to a daily bill of some €1bn for oil and gas imports.

By contrast, the renewables industry brings energy independence and with it huge savings.

“Mr Putin [Russia’s president] can and perhaps will turn of the tap that supplies Western Europe with oil and gas. But even Mr Putin – bare-chested, awfully clothed – cannot turn off the tap of supplies of our wind, our free indigenous fuel.”

With tensions around Russian military deployments in Ukraine increasing, fears of economic sanctions have also raised the spectre of extra oil and gas costs.

Russia provides about a third of the Europe’s gas needs, and any sanctions against Moscow could constrict the world’s supplies and send up prices steeply.

Garrad – chairman of renewables consultancy GL Garrad Hassan and a Recharge Thought Leader – linked the EU’s dependency on Russian oil and gas directly to its unwillingness to establish binding and ambitious 2030 targets for renewable energy.

The European Commission’s recent position paper on 2030 energy and climate policy settled on a figure of 27%, non-binding on individual member countries.

EWEA is calling for a 30% target that is binding on member states.

“It seems that some politicians would rather line Mr Putin’s pockets than agree to an ambitious target for renewables for 2030,” Garrad said.

“An ambitious 2030 target will help us get back to business today. What we do today, determines what fuel mix we have in 2030 and beyond.”

If the EU fails to act now, it is in danger to lock itself into a fossil future, he added.

Garrad called upon EU heads of state to deliver an ambitious renewables target when they meet in 10 days time.

As well as security of energy supply, the renewables industry also is creating new, clean jobs for Europeans, and a powerful means of addressing climate change in Europe and around the world, he stressed.

“All that, and the potential to save a billion euros a day. How could any politician refuse such a possibility?”