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Europe allocates a third of economic recovery package for environment news
30 January 2009

In what is seen as a major boost to alternative energy initiatives, the European Commission has proposed a 500-million euro financial support to wind energy efforts over the next two years.

The commission also proposed a five-billion euro European Economic Recovery Plan with 1.25 billion euros earmarked for supporting development of carbon capture and storage projects.

Other initiatives that will receive support include 1.75 billion euros for work on gas and electricity networks including 100 million euros for a link between Ireland and Wales and around 150 million euros towards initial work on a possible North Sea grid, which would also help offshore wind.

The proposed funding will be sourced from the unspent portion of the EU agriculture budget. However, the plan will be discussed at an EU Council meeting next month to gain approval of member state.

Offshore wind farms are technologically and logistically complex and therefore require financial assistance from the Commission. The offshore wind prograamme which will receive funding will provide support to large-scale offshore demonstration projects in member states and also help expansion of existing offshore wind farms.

Funding under the Recovery Plan includes 150 million euros towards work on an offshore wind energy integration project. The project envisages a North Sea grid between the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and Denmark.

Another wind energy project that will get funding is the Aberdeen offshore wind project that could become a "European testing centre" for multi-megawatt turbines. The project will receive 40 million euros.

The European wind energy industry said the EU Recovery Plan allows for larger volumes of electricity generated from wind to be integrated into the existing grid. The European Wind Energy Association said the Commission should provide new research and development opportunities to make the power sector "more efficient and less expensive, improve operations and maintenance and speed up market deployment."

The Commission said under the Recovery Plan five demonstration projects for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) would receive funding. The projects would  aim to develop technologies for removing carbon content of fossil fuels like coal, oil or gas either before or after combustion with a view to cut emission levels by up to 90 per cent.

Each of the five projects would receive 250 million euro investment according to the commission.

The commission's announcements were welcomed by the UK business sector as a helful step in the direction of a low carbon economy.

Meanwhile environmental campaigners have dismissed the provisions for CCS support stating that it would only perpetuate Europe's outdated energy system and its dependence of fossil fuels.

Green member of European Parliament Claude Turmes said the Recovery Plan was "inadequate and unbalanced" citing the difference in the funding for coal and gas projects as compared to offshore wind.

For the carbon capture and storage (CCS) programme, the Commission said it wold develop a technology to "achieve sustainable power generation from fossil fuels". This is expected to help "halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050".

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Europe allocates a third of economic recovery package for environment