Renewable energy generation is picking up. Figures recently published by the European Commission show that Europe is on track to meet its 2020 goal of increasing the share of green energy in its fuel mix by 20%. And renewables will grow at a faster pace in the years leading up to 2020 than in the past.
In the words of Arne Mogren, Director at the European Climate Foundation, a revolution has started. Mr Mogren was speaking at a EurActiv Debate hosted by MEP Claude Turmes in the European Parliament on Tuesday 8th February.
This boom, however, comes as no surprise. Wind farms, solar plants and geothermal stations are relatively small installations compared to conventional power plants: design, permitting and deployment are considerably faster.
Instead, what is most interesting is green energy’s potential to boost decentralised electricity generation. Renewables can be connected to the local, lower voltage distribution grid rather than the long-distance, high voltage transmission systems : this means that they can be designed to fit the energy needs of local communities.
Europe’s regions are best positioned to support and deliver on renewable energy thanks to their decentralised institutional arrangements, said Mel Kendall, Executive Member for Environment at the Hampshire City Council, who represented the Assembly of European Regions at the EurActiv debate.
The event saw the participation of more than a hundred policymakers and stakeholders – from the energy generation sector, but also from many regional representations in Brussels. Local authorities are indeed becoming more and more aware of the huge benefits of renewables, for their economies as well as the environment : not only will green energy dramatically reduce CO2 emissions, but it will also create local, green jobs.
Magued Eldaief, Director UK & Executive Director Global Accounts at GE Energy, sees the importance of the partnership between GE Energy and the Assembly of European Regions in this context. Implementation and execution come down to the local level : local governments and councils, he said. GE Energy engages with regions in Europe to provide solutions and technologies that help them meet their environmental and economic targets.
Financing however remains an open challenge. Investments in green technology will have to double from €35 billion to €70 billion over the next ten years. According to MEP Turmes, this means that 70% of all new energy-related investment should go to renewables. Commission Director General Philip Lowe echoed these remarks : tariffs will need to reflect the investments needed to upgrade Europe’s energy supply chain.
The private sector can certainly pitch in, according to Magued Eldaief. GE Energy has already invested $ 1 billion in wind technology, he explained. Clear and stable policy will help keep and increase the current investment level.