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"Energy" Framework Programme (1998-2002)




Local and regional energy management agencies 






The Altener Programme

The development of renewable energy - particularly energy from wind, water, solar power and biomass - is a central aim of the European Commission's energy policy. There are several reasons for this:

Renewable energy has an important role to play in reducing Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions - a major Community objective.

Increasing the share of renewable energy in the energy balance enhances sustainability. It also helps to improve the security of energy supply by reducing the Community's growing dependence on imported energy sources.

Renewable energy sources are expected to be economically competitive with conventional energy sources in the medium to long term.

Renewable energy is, by definition, local energy. Its development can create new business, bring employment and encourage economic and social cohesion in regions that otherwise lack industrial development.

There is a considerable export potential for renewable energy technologies, particularly in the developing world.

ALTENER, the only Community programme to focus exclusively on the promotion of renewable energy sources, ended its five-year term at the end of 1997. It has now been succeeded by ALTENER II, an initiative that will extend activities in the renewable energies field and make a major contribution to the Community Strategy and Action Plan outlined in the White Paper 'Energy for the Future: Renewable Sources of Energy'.

The need for Community support for renewable energy is clear. While several of the technologies, notably wind energy, small-scale hydro power and energy from biomass, are economically viable and competitive, and others are approaching viability, initial investment costs are high and investors often lack confidence in technologies that are relatively unknown. As a result, development has been limited, and the sector needs help if it is to 'take off' in marketing terms.


The main operational similarities and differences between ALTENER II and ALTENER can be summarised as follows:


  • Studies, technical assessments, the formulation of norms and standards, and pilot studies designed to set up or reinforce appropriate infrastructures for renewable energy development are common to both programmes.


  • ALTENER II provides increased support for information dissemination activities proposed by the Commission.
  • ALTENER II provides support for information dissemination activities proposed by third parties.
  • ALTENER II provides support for targeted actions designed to speed up investment in renewable energy technologies.
  • ALTENER II will make an EU-wide assessment of progress in the adoption of renewable energy technologies.
  • ALTENER II will work closely with the Associated Countries of Central and Eastern Europe, under overall conditions for their pre-accession participation in EU programmes. These conditions vary according to the country concerned and figure in the respective Association Agreements between themselves and the EU. Extension to Cyprus is also provided for, and of course, as for most EU programmes, the European Economic Area countries already take part.

Programme Objectives

ALTENER II, which is managed by DG XVII, the European Commission's Directorate-General for Energy, will run for five years, from January 1998 until December 2002. Its main role will be to help create an appropriate environment for the Community Strategy and Action Plan for renewable energy sources. The programme will also encourage both private and public investment in the production and use of renewable energy.

ALTENER II's specific objectives can be summarised as follows:

To implement and complement Community measures designed to develop the renewable energy resource potential.

To encourage the harmonisation of products and equipment in the renewable energy market.

To support the development of an infrastructure that will increase investor confidence, stimulate the take-up of renewable energy technologies and improve the sector's competitiveness.

To improve information dissemination and co-ordination at the international, Community, national, regional and local level, thereby increasing investor confidence and market penetration.

To increase operational capacity for the production of energy from renewable energy sources.

To implement the Community's renewable energy strategy.

The programme will establish close links with Cyprus and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in the renewable energy field.

ALTENER II will work closely with other Community actions and programmes that incorporate the promotion of renewable energy. These include:

JOULE-THERMIE - (1995-98) a non-nuclear research, development and demonstration (RD&D) programme designed to encourage the development of new, economically viable and environmentally safe energy options, and to stimulate their adoption by the market by disseminating relevant information. Under the Fifth Framework Programme (1999-2002), it is succeeded by the various non-nuclear energy components, which include 60% of the total demonstration budget allocated to Renewables, amounting provisionally to about 95 mio € for each year, collectively referred to as ‘ENERGIE’.

Community Strategy and Action Plan - an initiative designed to stimulate the widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies throughout the Community. Its Campaign for Take-off has four main objectives: one million photovoltaic systems; a large wind farm generating capability of 10,000MW; 10,000MWth (thermal) of biomass installations; and the integration of renewable energy sources to meet total electricity requirements in each of 100 communities.

ALTENER II Activities

The Extension of Existing Actions

ALTENER II will build on the success of ALTENER, carefully targeting its activities to increase their impact. This will involve:

Putting in place a structure for development - finalising the technical norms and standards that are already in preparation; developing and updating market strategies; completing and/or updating sectoral strategies; and proposing any necessary legislation.

Encouraging pilot actions that will reduce the costs of renewable energy development. These will focus on the development of effective tools for planning, design, testing, monitoring and evaluation, and on the creation of new financial arrangements such as green pools, green pricing and the grouping of users or producers.

Enhanced information dissemination with particular emphasis on:

  • education and training, including vocational training courses and company-based training initiatives
  • the use of permanent and temporary networks to disseminate information, for example:
  • networks of regions, islands and cities that are aiming to obtain 100% of their energy from renewable sources by 2010
  • networks of universities and schools pioneering renewable energies
  • technology research and development networks
  • the establishment of a centralised system (AGORES) for collecting and circulating information on renewable energy; this will cover regulation, calls for proposals, Community and Member State programmes, state-of-the-art technical data, training, financing mechanisms, assistance etc, and will be available via the World Wide Web.

New Actions

The existence of certain non-technical barriers to development means that many renewable energy projects are abandoned at an early stage. Potential investors and promoters may, for instance, be unaware of the business opportunities and economic benefits associated with renewable energy. They may also lack the skills that would allow them to undertake the assessments and studies required, negotiate appropriate agreements and acquire the necessary finance. ALTENER II is seeking to eliminate these barriers by supporting the preparatory phases of project activity rather than project construction or the procurement of equipment.

ALTENER II will also be an important tool both in implementing the Community Strategy and Action Plan outlined in the White Paper, and in monitoring and evaluating its progress.


ALTENER II will provide assistance for projects that will enable it to meet its objectives.

Particular encouragement will be given to multi-regional or multinational projects. Such projects stimulate the transfer of experience and know-how. They also allow promoters to obtain better terms from their suppliers and to take advantage of more efficient financing arrangements such as Third Party Financing.

ALTENER II is focusing on renewable energy sources that are already viable or approaching viability:

Biomass - energy crops, residues from forestry and agriculture, and municipal waste which can be used to produce solid, liquid or gaseous biofuels.

Solar energy - energy derived from the sun's light and heat and captured by the form and fabric of a building, by solar collectors or by photovoltaic cells for conversion into electricity.

Small-scale hydroelectricity - energy derived from falling water using units with a generating capacity of up to 10 MW.

Wind power - harnessed for electricity generation using modern wind turbines. Turbines can be deployed singly, in small clusters or in larger groups (wind farms).

Geothermal energy - tapping the heat in the earth's crust via boreholes, and bringing it to the surface as hot water.

last update: 01-02-2008