Renewables, a national and EU-level priority
By Marie-Martine Buckens | Thursday 12 July 2012
One of the major challenges facing the Cyprus Presidency is the adoption by the 27 energy ministers of new targets to guarantee a growing share of renewable sources in the energy mix after 2020. Two other issues have been identified as priorities: the energy infrastructure package and adoption of a new agreement with the United States on the Energy Star programme, which encourages the purchase of energy-efficient office equipment.
Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has hinted that the European Commission should be able to present new renewable energy targets for 2030 during the first half of 2013. Cyprus therefore has six months, first to put out feelers in all the capitals on the Commission’s 6 June communication on renewable energy, and then to draw up broad guidelines for post-2020 measures, ie the end date for existing legislation setting binding targets for renewable energy. An initial airing of views on the Commission’s communication was held on 15 June, under the Danish EU Presidency, but the energy ministers will not meet again for a formal Council session until 3 December. To speed up their work, Nicosia has decided to convene an informal Council of energy ministers, on 17 September in Cyprus, so that the Council can adopt formal conclusions by the end of 2012.
Cyprus still meets a large share of its energy needs with fossil fuel, 100% of which is imported. This situation is expected to change substantially in the coming decades, however, firstly because gas deposits have been discovered in its waters and the first exploitation permits have been issued. Next, the Cypriot government – pushed by its European commitments – is determined to roll out renewable energy, in particular wind and solar thermal energy. In 2010, the island had installed wind farm production capacity of 82 MW, set to double to 165 MW by the end of this year. In addition, it has 11.82 MW of photovoltaic systems and 8.6 MW generated from biomass. With more than 90% of houses fitted with solar panels for hot water production, Cyprus is one of the European countries with the largest number of square metres of solar panels per inhabitant. The share of renewable energy in total consumption is currently 5.8%, which Cyprus aims to increase to 13% by 2020.
The only cloud on the horizon is the still very small share of renewable energy in transport: barely 2%, far behind the 10% planned by the EU, compromising the more general target of 20% renewable in the energy mix by 2020. In this connection, the Cyprus Presidency will have to lead discussions under way on whether the biofuels being produced at present are indeed ecological, a question on which the Commission still has to take a position.