Pressure on energy providers, businesses and households to deploy renewable energy technologies is to increase after the EU yesterday announced its target to have a fifth of the region's power generated from renewable sources by 2020.
Currently, just six percent of energy consumed in the 25 EU states comes from renewables, but the report insists an "industrial revolution" in the use of renewable energy technologies is required if the commission is to reach its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent on 1990 levels by 2020.
The target formed the centerpiece of a major new report on Europe's energy strategy that argues there is both environmental and political impetus for an overhaul of Europe's energy practices – a fact underlined by this week's row over oil supplies between Russia and Belarus which has impacted several EU states.
The European Commission said in a statement that the transition towards low- and no-carbon energy production would increase European competitiveness and encourage the rest of the world to make the same changes.
"It will mean the EU taking global leadership in catalysing a new industrial revolution, benefiting the developed and developing world alike, while accelerating the change to low-emission economic growth and dramatically increasing the amount of local, low emission energy produced and used," it said.
As part of the new report the European Commission unveiled a new Energy Action Plan, including proposals for a new Europe-wide grid, greater promotion of sustainable fossil fuel technologies, such as carbon capture, an analysis of Europe's use of nuclear power, and wider promotion of renewable technologies, notably biofuels for transport.
The latest proposals join the EU's energy efficiency action plan, which was unveiled last October and promises "stringent" new energy efficiency standards and legislation governing the efficiency of appliances, buildings and transport.
The two action plan raise the prospect of increased environmental red tape for businesses across Europe, but also promise greater public sector support and funding for those organisations deploying local renewable energy technologies and developing more energy efficient facilities.
Business customers are also likely to approve of proposals in the review designed to drive down energy prices by "unbundling" energy suppliers in order to stimulate greater competition in the market.
The commission has long-suspected leading gas and electricity suppliers of acting uncompetitively and is proposing to limit current conflicts of interest through a break up of ownership structures that often see the same owners control the generation and distribution of energy.
The European Commission will put the joint action plan and the rest of the energy review before the European Council for approval this March.
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