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Several issues currently face the EU renewable energy industry. Legislation is a fundamental driver of the use of RES in the EU. The EU has set a target of achieving a 20% use of renewable energy by 2020, and to achieve this in the remaining 12 years will require a vigorous implementation of legislation. However, legislation is not the only mover in the sector. A range of incentives, tax reductions, feed in tariffs and other strategies are in use to promote the use of renewable energy. It is important that these remain attractive over the long term, to encourage investment in RES.

The EU Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) is designed to reduce carbon emissions; however one of the options in this scheme is to buy carbon certificates instead of actually reducing carbon emissions. This can be seen as a short-term solution to carbon reduction, and thus as a diversion of attention from the principal purpose of using renewable energy, which is to provide a sustainable supply of energy that is independent of fossil fuels. RES have the added advantage of being processes that emit low or zero levels of carbon. The use of renewable energy also reduces the EU's input of fossil fuels from regions that have unstable political regimes and/or cultures that do not always make compatible trading partners with some EU countries.

Regarding the future, it is important that — in addition to legislative and financial incentives — a suitable environment is created for the long-term development of renewable energy in the EU. This would include making improvements in the planning-consent process, to reduce project delays. Easier connection with the main grid networks is also required. Other topics to be addressed are the encouragement of the use of microgeneration and of the use of renewable energy for heating. The EU renewable sector is growing, and it is important that a satisfactory skills and manufacturing base is developed to realise its full market potential, both within and outside the EU.

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