EU policy on renewable energy remains open
Finland favoured binding goals
The European Union failed to reach agreement on policy aimed at increasing the use of renewable sources of energy on Thursday. EU Presidency-holder Germany put forward a modified proposal on Friday.
The new proposal retains the goal of increasing the proportion of renewable energy sources to 20 per cent of energy consumption by 2020.
However, in a concession to Finland and some other member states, the new proposal emphasises the importance of national circumstances when decisions are made about how much of the burden each individual country should bear.
Sources at the EU summit in Brussels said on Friday that the language is probably acceptable for all countries.
A number of EU member states, such as the Czech Republic, opposed binding limits. The opponents would find it difficult to increase production of renewable energy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that although there is no consensus on the matter, she still has hope.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said that the goal of increasing the use of renewable energy sources to 20 per cent of energy consumption by 2020 will be made binding for member states.
Discussions on how much each member state is expected to increase the use of renewable energy sources are continuing today, Friday.
Concerns have been voiced in Finland about a Commission estimate that the use of renewable sources could be raised as high as 45 per cent of consumption. Nevertheless, Finland was in favour of binding targets.
On Thursday Finland tried to push through its view, that when agreeing on sharing the burden, national conditions should be taken into consideration in a fair manner.
In the Finnish view, the Commission's view is based on inadequate information, and is "ridiculous".
According to Finland's own assessment, Finland can increase its use of renewable resources to between 30 and 35 per cent, by using waste from tree felling more efficiently, and by increasing hydroelectric power.
"This means thorough rethinking in Finland as well. I feel that we have all the prerequisites for safeguarding jobs. The position of industry must also be secured", Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said after the discussions.
Finland's decision to agree to binding goals sparked severe criticism from the association Finnish Energy Industries. The association accused the government of giving up on the principle that decisions on the forms of energy production are national ones.
Although the member states will continue to make their own decisions on how they produce their energy and generate their electricity, the agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 20 per cent, and the increased investment into renewable energy, will reduce somewhat the leeway that member states have for sources of energy.
Disagreement prevails among member states on whether or not nuclear energy, which does not give out greenhouse emissions, should be taken into consideration. France, which is a heavy user of nuclear energy, feels strongly that it should be.
Nuclear energy has been seen as one way to achieve a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. However, it is a very sensitive subject in many member states. It is especially shunned by Austria, Ireland, and Germany.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finland accepts binding target for renewable energy (8.3.2007)