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EU: Temperature rises in Brussels over green investment

EUROPE's battle over how best to tackle global warming is heating up. A draft EU proposal on the allocation of around €9bn-worth ($12.5bn) of funding to green technology was seen by some as heavily favouring carbon capture and storage (CCS) over renewable-energy development.

The draft report, obtained by Reuters, sets out how the European Commission plans to divide a New Entrants' Reserve of 300m free emissions permits – for use within the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) – among companies developing clean-energy technologies. The report says the extra funding should distributed "proportionately" between CCS schemes and renewable-energy projects, but adds that "departures from this can be justified by a lack of suitable candidate projects".

Green politicians and environmental groups say the contrast between the well-co-ordinated and powerful pro-CCS lobby, backed by big utilities, and the relatively fragmented renewables industry could result in CCS schemes receiving more than 75% of the free permits, leaving only a minority for renewable energy. This funding would come on top of a further €1bn earmarked for the development of up to 12 CCS demonstration plants by 2015, agreed in May.

Europe's power companies say substantial public funding is essential to kick-start CCS from fossil-fuel burning; it is estimated that applying the technology will add around €1bn to the cost of a power plant. CCS' proponents say it provides the only practicable way to reduce carbon emissions, while also meeting the continent's short-term power requirements.

But the possibility that CCS will receive the lion's share of EU funding has angered those unconvinced by the merits of the technology. They see CCS as helping to prolong fossil-fuel use unnecessarily by using commercially unproved and expensive technology that is unlikely to be widely available early enough to mitigate the worst effects of global warming. "There are new emerging renewable-energy technologies that offer much greater potential for emissions reductions, as well as energy independence. Unfortunately, the Commission has once again succumbed to the fossil-fuel lobby," Claude Turmes, the EU Parliament's lead negotiator on the Renewable Energy Directive, and Caroline Lucas, leader of the UK's Green Party, said in a joint statement.

The Greens want the Commission to change the terms of the financing so that at least 75% of the New Entrants' Reserve is allocated to renewable-energy projects that avoid carbon emissions, rather then CCS, which merely stores them. Greenpeace says the precise proportion of the funding going to CCS should be spelled out.

If the split does end up more evenly balanced between the two camps when the proposal is finalised, it will mark a further shift in favour of renewable energy, after the European Parliament last year failed to get member states to back CCS funding unless the money was shared with new renewable technologies, such as concentrated solar power, developing bigger wind turbines and geothermal energy.

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