The renewable energy industry, a “Europe-wide asset”

A new renewable energy directive and the ambition to maintain global leadership in the sector are part of the Energy Union strategy presented by the European Commission in February. The first “State of the Energy Union” report, which followed in November, confirmed the role of the industry for both economic and climate goals. But walking the talk is not going to be easy. What is the position of European companies and what to expect from the EU next year? Dominique Ristori, Director General for Energy at the European Commission, gives an overview in this email interview with SUN & WIND ENERGY.

S&WE: European renewable energy companies seem to be squeezed between increasing international competition and withdrawal of government incentives. What is happening to the European renewable energy industry?

Dominique Ristori: The European renewable energy sector employs 1.15 million people, which means over 2 renewable jobs per 1,000 inhabitants – twice the world average. Renewable energy is one of the few sectors where employment has grown in spite of the financial crisis, with almost half a million additional jobs between 2008 and 2013. European renewable energy companies also lead in terms of turnover. In 2013, the sector generated €137bn, a 6% increase on the previous year. We should keep in mind that, even if we import some technologies, the value chain of renewables remains mostly European.

According to the International Energy Agency, the EU is set to lead growth in renewable generation, with wind, solar and other technologies accounting for 50% of power production by 2040, followed by China and Japan at 30%. To keep on this path, it is true that we need to intensify our efforts. We will need strong governance to achieve the EU binding target of 20% by 2020. We also need a solid directive to ensure at least 27% renewables by 2030. Support schemes will have to be flexible and market-oriented, to avoid distortion through overcompensation. We also support research and innovation with ten research and innovation actions as part of the Integrated Strategic Energy Technology Plan. Projects are also included in the Horizon 2020 programme, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation…

Continue reading on Sun & Wind Energy. Published online on 7 December 2015, full version in the magazine of January 2016, available on subscription. Photo: Dominique Ristori ©