Europe's energy and climate strategy

10 November 2010

The European Commission has adopted a ten-year strategy for energy, underlining the role nuclear plays as the continent's largest source of low-carbon power. 


Today's 'communication' entitled Energy 2020, A strategy for competitive sustainable and secure energy began by placing dramatic emphasis on the role energy plays in society and the importance of modernizing its generation and use: "The price of failure is too high."


The text noted that common EU energy policy has evolved around the ideas security of supply, competitiveness and sustainability, all of which are now enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty as central goals. Meanwhile, there is the '20, 20 by 2020' set of goals to reduce carbon emissions by 20%, increase efficiency by 20% and increase renewables to supply 20% of energy all by 2020. The first goal could increase to 30% if other developed economies make similar pledges.


However, "the existing strategy is currently unlikely to achieve all the 2020 targets, and it is wholly inadequate to the longer term challenges," said the document.



  "The security of internal energy supplies is
  undermined by delays in investments and 
  technological progress. Currently, nearly 45% of
  European electricity generation is based on low-
  carbon energy sources, mainly nuclear and
  hydropower. Parts of the EU could lose more
  than a third of their generation capacity by 2020
  because of the limited life-time of these
  installations. This means replacing and expanding
  existing capacities, finding secure non-fossil fuel
  alternatives, adapting networks to renewable
  energy sources and achieving a truly integrated
  internal energy market. At the same time
  member states still need to phase out
  environmentally harmful subsidies."



The paper then declared that "the EU is the level at which energy policy should be developed" because of the increasing connectedness of member states. "The optimum energy mix, including the swift development of renewables, needs a continental market at least."


Europe's strategy is to be one oriented around demand-side policy, "decoupling economic growth from energy use." The Emissions Trading Scheme should be used to stimulate energy savings and more low carbon investment that would exploit new energy generation and storage technology - as well as electric transport. One sector that can push this through would be public spending, which accounts for some €1500 billion per year - or some 16% of EU GDP according to today's document.


On the supply side, low carbon generation should grow to 60% of supply by the early 2020s, up from 45% now. Nuclear power is currently the largest low-carbon contributor at 30% of overall supply, followed by large hydro, and it is growth in renewables that is seen as making the increase.


Nuclear should be assessed "openly and objectively" by member states with priority on safety as well as waste management. Next generation plants were noted as potentially providing much process heat, while fusion through the Iter project is for the longer term.


On the horizon 


The European Commission's ideas to improve the performance of nuclear energy across the 27-nation bloc include expanding its legal framework for safety and security.


In addition to a review of the Nuclear Safety Directive, the recent Nuclear Waste Directive and adoption of IAEA standards across the continent, there will also be a "proposal for a European approach on nuclear liability regimes." The commissioners also want "greater harmonisation of plant design and certification," which should be "actively pursued."


In response to some outside nations' organised pushes to export their nuclear technology to new and existing nuclear power users, "EU researchers and companies need to increase their efforts to remain at the forefront of the booming international market for energy technology and, where it is mutually beneficial, they should step up cooperation with third countries in specific technologies."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News