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Renewable energy sources - The stakes are high

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Renewable energy sources started to be developed when the oil crises of the 1970s made us aware of the fact that fossil resources would run out one day - but since there is some uncertainty about when that will actually happen the efforts made in this area remained rather tentative.
Since that time the question of energy has assumed ever-increasing importance. It has become quite obvious that using coal and oil does not fit in with the trend towards "sustainable" development. Their adverse effects, and in particular their detrimental impact on air quality and, consequently, public health, have been more clearly identified. And last but not least, the need for new solutions has become even more apparent with the discovery of the fact that excessive consumption of fossil fuels - mainly by the richer countries - is causing global warming.
This threat gave rise to the Kyoto agreements (1998). In them Europe undertook to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 8% compared with 1990 levels by 2008-2012.
Following the radically new post-Kyoto energy deal the stakes are now high where sustainable and non-polluting energy sources are concerned. Europe's avowed energy strategy objective of doubling their share in total energy consumption is more than a mere aspiration: it has become a necessity.


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Renewable energy sources - The stakes are highRenewable energy technologies - as varied as the energy sources for which they have been developed - have evolved considerably and Europe is in the forefront worldwide. This is the end-product of considerable research carried out in conjunction with industry. Between 1990 and 1998 nearly _ 800 million was spent from the Community budget to support transfrontier technology cooperation projects involving renewable energy sources.
The progress achieved concerns the efficiency of the production and utilisation equipment in terms of installed power, cost of a kilowatt-hour supplied, applications for specific uses, storage solutions, etc. Going beyond technical innovations, European support was earmarked for carrying out demonstration projects, which are of particular importance to the development of this sector. In order to penetrate a market which has for a long time preferred to ignore them, renewable energy sources have to be "proven" in pilot plants in order to convince potential users. That is where their feasibility and economic merit can be verified in clearly targeted applications.

Forecasting impacts
The Energy-Environment-Economy Model for Europe (E3ME) developed through European research is a powerful model for forecasting complex interactions beteween these three "Es" and the regional and
sectoral impact of sustainable energy policies.

Renewable energy sources - The stakes are high

Calculating costs
There is no point comparing the cost of a kWh produced by a renewable source with that produced by an oil-fired power station unless the "external" costs, e.g. the costs of atmospheric pollution, are included. The Externe E project coordinated from Madrid and carried out in 15 European countries has made it possible to develop a very sophisticated standardised methodology for taking all these factors into account. It now serves as a reference for many international experts.

Renewable energy sources - The stakes are high

The importance of demonstration
Developed in Italy, in association with several municipalities, the Autosole project demonstrated the feasibility of a covered car park with roof-mounted photovoltaic cells to recharge a fleet of electric vehicles.
The Toledo power station in Spain, built in cooperation with German partners, was Europe's first one megawatt solar power plant. Connected up to the grid, Toledo is linked to a hydroelectric power station and produces most of its power during the summer when water reserves are at their lowest level.

High-power performance
Rear view of the nacelle of the giant wind generator at Tjaereborg (Denmark) and its transformer. The end-product of a European project, it was one of the first high-power installations built on the continent.

 
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