Europe aims to reduce CO2 emissions by year 2000

Douglas J. Smith

Managing Editor

After the United Nations environmental conference in Rio, the European Union committed itself to stabilizing its CO2 emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000. However, many in Europe believe this ambitious target is not achievable without a major increase in the use of renewable fuels.

The European Union and its member states have declared their intention of substituting a proportion of their conventional primary energy demand with renewable energy sources. Their aim is to fulfill the primary and medium-term energy needs with capacity supplied from renewable energy sources. Europe`s target is the substitution of 15 percent of the real primary energy consumption, with renewable sources of energy by 2010.

The cornerstone of the European Commission`s strategy to ensure the prosperity of the European Union, and its citizens, is access to clean, secure, sustainable and competitive energy supplies. According to the European Union, under present economic conditions any energy policy can only be successful if it emphasizes the fundamental roles of energy efficiency, energy conservation and the use of renewable energy sources. Today, renewable energy provides approximately 63 million tons of oil equivalent each year (Mtoe/yr), which is nearly 5.4 percent of the European Union`s primary energy needs.

The European Commission believes that by 2010, biomass and other waste fuels could supply up to 70 Mtoe/yr. Because of concerns about CO2 emissions, renewable fuels should be part of any country`s energy balance. A reduction of 180 million tons of CO2 might be achieved by 2005 by increasing the use of renewable energy sources to 8 percent of the current primary energy consumption.

Although promoting renewable fuels for reducing pollution is important, we should not overlook cogeneration. Cogeneration, or combined heat and power, is one of the most efficient means of generating electricity. Typically, a cogeneration plant has an overall savings of 35 percent in primary energy usage. Not only does this translate into more efficient energy usage, but it means a corresponding reduction in the CO2 emissions.

The reduction in emissions of CO2 is a major concern, and the European Union should be complimented on the actions it is taking. However, environmental pollution has no borders and no one country can solve the problem alone. Reducing pollution and utilizing energy resources wisely should be the concern of everyone.

However, I do not advocate that renewables and co-generation be advanced at the expense of other technologies such as clean coal, nuclear and combined-cycle. All of these technologies will be needed as we enter the 21st century.