INTERVIEW - EU Near Green Energy Deal Despite Biofuel Deadlock
Author: Pete Harrison
BRUSSELS - The European Union has agreed rough deals on promoting renewable energy, but talks remain deadlocked over the controversial issue of biofuels, the European Parliament's lead negotiator said.
"Nearly 100 pages of the report are done and three pages are not done, but those three pages are the most politically difficult," Luxembourg Green group member Claude Turmes told Reuters late on Thursday.
A deal on improving the access for windfarms, solar and other renewable schemes to the European power grid is almost complete, Turmes added, following closed-door talks between parliament and EU nations to fine tune the laws.
The EU aims for a final, binding deal in the next three weeks.
"This is very good for renewable electricity and getting biogas into the grid," he said. "And we have very stringent provisions on action plans, so member states will have to roll out detailed road maps on how to get to their renewable targets."
"We have agreement on joint renewables projects, and we're really close to an agreement on joint projects in third countries (outside the EU) -- It will be about physical imports of electricity," he added.
That would satisfy Britain, Poland and Germany, which have proposed undertaking shared renewables projects, and Italy, which wants to tap into north Africa's large potential for solar power.
Loopholes have also been closed on the "guarantees of origin" used to cerfify renewable projects
"It will be impossible now for traders to gain millions in windfall profits by using renewables produced cheaply in one country and selling them elsewhere at a higher price," said Turmes.
But a final deal cannot be closed due to a standoff over demands by member states for a review in 2014 and over the controversial issue of biofuels.
"The revision clause, which has been proposed by the French presidency on the request of Italy, would risk completely undermining investment security," said Turmes. "We need to provide regulatory certainty until at least 2020."
He said there was little movement over EU targets for biofuels in road transport, with EU nations backing the original proposal by the European Commission of 10 percent by 2020 and parliament demanding the share of traditional biofuels from food crops be cut to 6 percent.
Environmentalists charge that biofuels made from grains and oilseeds have pushed up food prices and forced subsistence farmers to expand agricultural land by hacking into rainforests and draining wetlands known as "land-use change."
(Editing by James Jukwey)