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May 2006
Issue 5

Conference Reports

Renewable Energy for Europe – Research in Action

Opening session
Opening session
More than 600 representatives from research, industrial and funding organisations attended the Commission’s ‘Renewable Energy for Europe – Research in Action’ conference in Brussels in November 2005. The aim was to highlight the importance of EU research into RES, and to raise awareness of opportunities for further development and coordination at EU level.

Side events included a poster session featuring organisations from New Member States and Candidate Countries, and an exhibition of EU RES industry associations.

The UK Minister of State for Energy, Malcolm Wicks, set the tone for the conference in his keynote address: "There can be few greater challenges facing Europe, and indeed the world, than those linked to the need for secure and sustainable energy." Commissioner Potočnik highlighted the importance of energy research: "Today’s research provides the knowledge for tomorrow’s energy policy. Enhancing our knowledge of RES through research is an important step to achieving this goal."

Success Stories – Industrial Perspectives

EU RES success stories in wind, bio-energy, PV and solar thermal were presented. While wind and PV have shown impressive growth rates recently, the uptake of RES in the EU still faces significant challenges. The costs of RES are still higher than for traditional energy and the integration of RES into existing distribution networks is at an early stage. Member States have implemented schemes such as feed-in systems or green certificates. The different RES technologies should work together so as to gain grid access, increased research funding and to create synergies.

Renewable Energy in Europe – Research Coordination and Policy

The national research programmes and policies for RES in Sweden and Germany and the FP6 ERA-NET scheme were presented. The aim of ERA-NET is to coordinate national or regional programmes and joint activities, and to increase the integration of New Member States into ERA, the European Research Area.

Socio-economic Challenges

RES has the potential to deliver an additional 750 TWh (64 Mtoe) of electricity and 80 Mtoe of heat in the EU27 by 2020, given a broad approach and significant political support. The main barriers were discussed during the conference, such as the harmonisation of policies and support mechanisms. Progress may be achieved sooner in such areas as the single electricity market or emission trading schemes.

The International Dimension of RES Research

The environmental problems posed by the modern day energy system are of course global in nature. RES research was placed in the context of international energy research in Japan, the USA and worldwide, comparing research programmes and goals for 2010 and beyond, focusing on consequences of the disparities in energy consumption between developed and developing countries. The session underlined international co-operation and the positive contribution of RES to reducing CO2 emissions and mitigating climate change.

EU Technology Platforms and Future Research

During the conference, the EU Technology Platforms on PV, electricity networks and biofuels were presented. In domains where RTD has a vital role to play in addressing major economic, technological or societal challenges, Technology Platforms provide a means to foster effective public-private partnerships between industry, the research community, and policy-makers towards achieving a common goal. One of the roles of Technology Platforms is to produce a strategic research agenda – essentially a roadmap for research – which will be an important resource for the European Commission to implement the Seventh Framework Programme.

Energy is one of nine themes in the Seventh Framework Programme. Within the energy theme, renewable energy will be directly supported under three topics: renewable electricity generation, renewable fuel production and renewables for heating and cooling.

In Summary

The conference attracted a wide range of stakeholders involved in different renewable energy technologies. It was underlined that renewable energy has a vital contribution to make in addressing the global problems of a burgeoning energy demand, excessive CO2 emissions and the insecure provision of energy. The fruits of previous research work were presented, and there was broad consensus on the need to continue and enhance research activity for the accelerated deployment of renewable energy.

EWEC – European Wind Energy Conference and Exhibition

EWEC was held in Athens from 27 February to 2 March with 2,800 attendees and 150 exhibitors from over 50 countries.

A common theme of the conference was the increasing geographical diversification of the wind power market. Denmark and Spain used to account for 90% of the European market, but due to the recent strong growth in France, Portugal and Italy, this figure is now around 58%. The highest world growth rates are in India, the USA and China. Future wind power shares will go from the present 70% for the EU, 17% for the US and 12% for Asia to around one third for each, presenting both opportunities and threats to EU industry.

Commissioner Dimas commented that wind is one of the fastest growing technologies, creating 200,000 jobs, and underlined how EU R&D has reduced the cost of wind power. Mr Zervos, EWEA President, added that the Commission's 40 GW target for 2010 had already been achieved in 2005.

There were interesting presentations, including EU projects on aerodynamics, aero-elasticity, aeroacoustics, control, meteorology and integration. The Unit's project officer, Thierry Langlois D'Estaintot, chaired a workshop on short-term forecasting as part of the EU ANEMOS project.

The next EWEC will be in Milan on 7-10 May 2007.

Renewable Hydrogen Workshop

IPHE workshop participants at the beautiful Abengoa venue
IPHE workshop participants at the beautiful Abengoa venue
The International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy (IPHE) workshop was held in Seville in October 2005. The Unit organised the workshop in collaboration with DoE (USA), METI (Japan), the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy and Abengoa Hynergreen. One hundred and forty invited world experts gathered to exchange information on H2 production using RES, to identify research needs, promote collaboration and recommend possible related activities to IPHE.

The workshop included six areas: H2 from RES, biomass gasification and pyrolysis, distributed reforming with biofuels, biological and biomimetic H2 production, high temperature solar thermochemical H2 production, and photoelectrochemical production for direct water splitting. These are at various stages of development and their RTD needs differ widely: the challenges for RES electrolysis are to reduce costs by optimisation and combining power electronic components, whereas for the biological, thermochemical and photoelectrochemical areas, the problems lie in finding efficient, durable materials.

It was emphasised that experimental data and consistent, reliable system analyses are needed to compare various energy paths to H2 production, to validate different models and identify the most promising technologies.

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