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Funding a low-carbon future - 08/10/2009

Solar power panels in village of Llaberia, Spain © EC

Solar energy and carbon capture and storage earmarked for lion's share of extra technology funding.

Europe needs to spend an extra €50bn on developing clean energy over the next 10 years, nearly triple its current investment, according to the EU's latest estimate.

In a plan for allocating the money, the commission calls for €16bn for solar power over the next 10 years, €13bn for carbon capture and storage, €7bn for nuclear and €6bn for wind.

Boosting investment in clean energy technology will speed up the transition to a low-carbon economy - essential to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the EU's dependence on imported oil and gas, the plan says.

While €50bn may seem like a tall order with the economy barely out of recession, experts agree that the large-scale investment will pay off. The market for the technology is exploding, offering the prospect of massive earnings and millions of jobs for countries that take an early lead.

"Increasing smart investment in research today is an opportunity to develop new sources of growth, to green our economy and to ensure the EU's competitiveness when we come out of the crisis," said Janez Potočnik, commissioner for science and research.

The plan underscores the EU's commitment to fighting climate change ahead of the UN conference in Copenhagen in December. The goal of the meeting is to produce a new and more ambitious international commitment to containing global warming. The current treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, expires at the end of 2012.

Currently the EU is spending about €3bn a year on research and development in clean energy. The plan calls for €8bn a year - so an additional €50bn over the next decade. The money would come from various sources - industry, banks, private investors, government. The plan is to select some two dozen European cities to pioneer green technologies.

Fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal account for up to 80% of the EU's current energy supply. More than 50% of the EU's energy comes from countries outside the bloc.

More on the EU energy technology plan

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