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EDITORIAL: A difficult start for the first-ever Vice-President for Energy Union

Date : October 2014

By James Watson, Chief Executive Officer

European Commission President-elect, Jean-Claude Juncker, has initiated significant structural changes to the Commission. The most visible one is the introduction of a two-level college of Commissioners, consisting of seven Vice-Presidents and 20 Commissioners.
The Vice-President for Energy Union is responsible for steering and coordinating the work of a pool of seven Commissioners, including Commissioner-designate for Climate Action & Energy, Spaniard Miguel Arias Cañete. While the voting weight remains unchanged between Members of the Commission – one Member one vote – Vice-Presidents will act as filters, deciding on which initiatives can be submitted to the entire college of Commissioners for consideration.

EPIA welcomes this new procedure and structure, which could bring coherence and strength to European decisions in the energy field. We also fully support priorities highlighted by President-elect Juncker in his mission letter to the Vice-President-designate, such as the objective for “the EU to become the world number one leader in renewable energies”, the focus on “completing the internal energy market” and on “increasing competition”, and the development of a “resilient Energy Union with a forward-looking climate change policy”. 

Despite these encouraging innovations and objectives, the false start of Vice-President-designate, Slovenian Alenka Bratušek, could ultimately weaken the position of Energy Union Commissioner. Every Commissioner-designate went through a hearing session in front of the relevant committee members within the European Parliament. Ms. Bratušek’s hearing went particularly badly. Indeed, she left members of the ITRE (Industry, Research and Energy) and ENVI (Environment, Public Health and Food Safety) committees unimpressed, leading to her formal rejection during an unequivocal vote (112 votes to 13).

Following Bratušek’s official resignation, the Slovenian government has put forward Violeta Bulc as the new candidate for the country. It is quite unlikely that the replacement nominee will be given the same senior position within the Commission, as this could further raise doubts and opposition from the European Parliament. It appears that President-elect Juncker will be forced to reshuffle portfolios between the different candidates. He will have a hard time finding a consensual configuration for his new Commission. The shaky start of the first-ever Vice-President for Energy Union and the ongoing reshuffle are bad news for the authority and leadership that such a strategic function requires. President-elect Juncker now needs to appoint a solid and committed individual for the job.

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HIGHLIGHT: European Commission study brings welcome transparency on the true cost of energy

Date : October 2014

By Frauke Thies, Policy Director

The European Commission has released on 13 October its long-awaited interim report on “Energy subsidies and costs in the EU”, assessing both direct public support and un-accounted external costs for the different energy sources.

The study demonstrates that society is paying more for conventional energy technologies today, than it is for solar. Taking into account both subsidies and the cost of externalities like human health damages, environmental effects and resources depletion, the total cost of fossil and nuclear technologies by far exceeds the total cost of solar. 

Furthermore, if external costs are excluded from the calculation, the study still demonstrates the economic strength of solar: Even in a special year for photovoltaics like 2012*, mature nuclear and coal technologies received almost the same level of support as solar, if historic support that can be directly linked to the production of today is factored in.
 

While the Commission had already withhold subsidy figures for conventional technologies in another publication earlier this year, it first appeared that the subsidy report could be delayed or suppressed again. Following a Joint Letter with other renewable energy associations that EPIA had initiated, the Commission finally did publish the study, after what we understand has been a strong internal debate. Very active during the stakeholder process accompanying the development of the study, EPIA welcomed the release of the report.
    

* The study estimates that significant support to solar power was introduced only recently and probably reached its peak in 2012.


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Clear national targets and appropriate regulatory frameworks key to solar growth, says the International Energy Agency

Date : October 2014

By Giorgia Concas, Policy Advisor

In its recently published “Solar Photovoltaic Energy Technology Roadmap 2014”, the International Energy Agency (IEA) confirms that solar has undergone tremendous cost reductions in the last years and that the potential for further cost decline is still huge.

The IEA estimates that solar system prices have decreased by two thirds in just six years in most markets and that the cost of solar technology could go down by another 65% by 2050. The IEA has also updated upwards its forecast and now predicts that solar could generate up to 16% of the world’s electricity by 2050. The Agency, however, warns that the increasing solar competitiveness alone will not lead to market development.

Clear political targets set at country level and appropriate regulatory frameworks are needed to increase investors’ visibility and confidence, and to lower the cost of capital of solar projects, making them even more competitive.

The IEA recognises that the lack of long-term price visibility inherent to current market designs is an obstacle to investments in capital-intensive technologies, such as solar. To overcome this barrier, policy frameworks need to strike a balance between predictable financial schemes and gradual exposure to market prices.


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Join EPIA at the European Utility Week

Date : October 2014

By Kinga Timaru-Kast, Head of Membership & Business Development

Join the EPIA activities at the European Utility Week, the annual landmark event of the energy sector.

This year’s edition of the European Utility Week will take place on 4-6 November 2014 in Amsterdam. During three days of global energy industry-related discussions, the event will bring together 10.000+ international smart energy stakeholders and 300+ speakers.

Do not miss EPIA events organised within the frame of the European Utility Week 2014:

  • On Wednesday 05 November, 14:00-15:20, EPIA hosts a session on “Transforming the power business - Opportunities in a renewable-driven and decentralised power system”, as part of the Strategic Programme. Oliver Schäfer, EPIA President, will moderate the session.
  • On Thursday 06 November, 9:00-9:20, EPIA will present the results of the PV GRID project, with a focus on analysing grid connection barriers and solutions for PV across Europe, as part of the Case Study Programme. Manoël Rekinger, EPIA Senior Technology Advisor, will feature as a speaker.

You can also meet the EPIA team of experts during the European Utility Week, by scheduling a meeting with them.

EPIA members benefit from a 20% discount on Conference Pass and a Free Exhibition Pass. You can find more information about the discounts offered to EPIA members here.


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Joint Industry Letter on the need for a strong renewables energy target for 2030

Date : October 2014

By Giorgia Concas, Policy Advisor

In the run-up of the European Council on 23-24 October which is expected to decide on a Climate and Energy package for 2030, 16 energy businesses and associations, including EPIA, have sent a Joint Letter to the EU Heads of State and Government calling on them to agree on a binding renewable energy target of at least 30% by 2030.

Read the Joint Letter here.

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PRESS RELEASE: European Commission study shines light on the true cost of energy

Date : October 2014

By Benjamin Fontaine, Senior Communications Advisor

The European Commission study on “Energy subsidies and costs in the EU”, released today, demonstrates that the direct total cost of conventional energy technologies, such as coal and nuclear, is much higher than the direct cost for solar energy.

Read the Press Release here.

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EPIA statement on the approval of UK State Aid for Hinkley C

Date : October 2014

Reacting to today's announcement by the European Commission to approve UK State Aid for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, Dr. James Watson, CEO of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), issued the following statement:

"We are disappointed by the decision of the European Commission to approve Hinckley C. We understand that only 16 Commissioners supported it, which is far from a ringing endorsement of the plan. This decision, which is at odds with the objective of enhanced competition in the energy sector, will undoubtedly generate further distortion in the energy sector and hamper the internal energy market.

Solar is expected to cope with market rules that are not fit for them, as they have been designed to accommodate the characteristics of large, conventional power plants. Instead of validating another subsidy to nuclear, European policymakers should be making all energy sources compete on a level playing field.

EPIA welcomes the intention of the Austrian government to take legal steps against the decision of the European Commission and looks forward to the decision of the European Court of Justice in the matter.
"


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EPIA shared its vision at the O&M Europe Conference

Date : October 2014

By Manoël Rekinger, Senior Technology Advisor

More than 250 stakeholders from across Europe gathered to the Solar O&M Europe Conference (7-8 October 2014, Milan) to discuss with 30 experts about solar power plant performance optimisation, portfolio management and return maximisation. EPIA moderated a panel discussion that included representatives of Enel Distribuzione, Terna, Eclaeron, Fiamm and Schneider Electric. 
A supporting partner of the event, EPIA played an important role in presenting its vision on the short-term evolution of O&M practices in relation to further integration of solar into electricity grids and markets. While the cost of solar components has already greatly decreased in recent years, the potential for cost decline lying in Operation and Maintenance practices (O&M) is becoming increasingly important.

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REserviceS Project Final Event: Solar can replace conventional generators

Date : October 2014

By Manoël Rekinger, Senior Technology Advisor

The REserviceS Project Final Event, organised on 30 September 2014 in Brussels, has concluded two and a half years of extensive research from the project partners. Funded by the European Commission, the REserviceS project has developed guidance for a cost–efficient and market-based approach for the use of grid support services provided by Solar and wind.

Final results of the project have been discussed during the event with representatives of the European Commission, the solar and wind and industries, as well as electricity and market operators. Presentations from the event and project’s publications are available here.

A partner of the project, EPIA has actively contributed to the project by sharing its knowledge and vision on the necessary evolution of the regulatory framework. REserviceS confirms that a power system with high shares of variable renewables is technically feasible and even cost efficient. More than ever, solar is becoming a mainstream source of energy.


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PV GRID Final European Forum: Solutions for a smooth integration of high levels of solar into the grid

Date : October 2014

By Myrto Papoutsi, Business Development & Project Officer

A partner of the project, EPIA organised the PV GRID Final European Forum which took place on 29 September 2014 in Brussels. The event which gathered over 75 participants, focused on findings and future steps for solar photovoltaic (PV) large-scale integration at distribution level in Europe.

The Forum presented the final results of the PV GRID project during different sessions where project partners - DSOs and representatives of the solar PV industry - and external experts presented their views on technical and regulatory solutions for a smoothr integration of high levels of solar into the grid.

More information about the event as well as the presentations are available here.


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Benjamin Fontaine
EPIA
Contact
Benjamin Fontaine
Senior Communications Advisor
@ : b.fontaine@epia.org
T. : +32 (0)2 709 55 23

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