Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Boosting Scotland's green energy potential in Europe

Between now and the end of the year we are set for a bit of an energy tastic time as the negotiations between the Parliament and the Council on the Commission's proposed energy and climate change package reach a critical point - the French Presidency is pushing for a deal to be done by Christmas, primarily because it wants the cudos of having such a key dossier agreed under its watch so it is all a bit gung-ho.

First off the starting block from the Parliament's side was today's vote in the Energy Committee on the report drafted by the Luxembourg Green MEP Claude Turmes on a proposed new EU-wide legal framework for actively promoting renewables targets - 20%
There were over 1100 amendments plus compromises

Altogether the end result was a good one for us with a number of our amendments, which sought to strengthen Scotland's renewable energy potential, adopted.

Scotland's Gains:

- the inclusion of a North Sea marine energy grid as a "project of European interest", which will mean priority for funding. Scotland stands to benefit massively from the increased capacity for renewables this grid will enable. Developing cross-border super grids will enable Scotland to become a major exporter of clean, green energy to Europe.

- encouraging priority access to the grid for renewables and seeking to ensure that the non-discriminatory nature of Ofgem’s transmission charges for remote renewables connecting to the grid is now made “mandatory". The Commission is also now mandated to investigate such abuses and act on them.

- encouraging the exchange of best practice in the development and deployment of green energy and pushing for extra funding for cutting edge research to develop the next generation of clean energy technologies.

- seeking to ensure Scotland is at the heart of the EU’s research efforts into renewables by requiring the Commission to produce a plan by 2010 to co-ordinate funding and support for renewable energy and energy efficient technology research centres, particularly those that cooperate with Universities and enterprises in applied and innovative research to commercialise research quickly. This will have positive implications for our Marine Energy Research Centre in Orkney.

Other key amendments adopted include a compromise on the 10% binding biofuels target on transport: the 10% target for 2020 remains, but 40% of the 10% must come from "acceptable" sources of renewable energy, like fuels made from waste, residues, or electricity from renewable sources. This target is to be reviewed in 2014 based on an impact assessment.

The target is supported by stringent sustainability criteria for biofuels that wish to be included in the scheme. These biofuels must achieve a 45% greenhouse gas emissions saving, and at least 60% from 2015. Other criteria include no biofuels production on high carbon stock land (peat) and adherence to water and soil management criteria as well as social sustainability criteria (respect for the land rights of local communities and the fair remuneration of workers).

The Committee also backed amendments which called for energy efficiency in transport to be improved by at least 20% compared to 2005. Various other energy efficiency measures were adopted not least retrofitting old building stock and making public buildings have an energy surplus as well as biomass based heating and cooling systems.

With Member States required to adopt national renewable energy action plans setting out their national targets for their share of renewables in transport, electricity, heating and cooling, the Committee did introduce greater flexibility mechanisms in how these EU targets are to be achieved.

Once again what this shows is how the SNP in Europe have sought to ensure Scotland's energy interests are central to the ongoing discussions in Brussels and that renewables are firmly at the heart of the energy debate in Europe and in Scotland. With many of the SNP's objectives for a greener Scotland taken on board, this will do much to realise the SNP's vision for Scotland as Europe's green energy powerhouse.

MEPs will vote on the Turmes report in Strasbourg on 16 December so we will be working between now and then to ensure there are no attempts to water down what has been achieved thus far.

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