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A renewable energy lobby seeks power in Brussels

The European Renewable Energy Council thinks renewables could supply 100 percent of Europe's future energy needs.

Use of renewables has grown at a gale force pace in Europe over recent years. The level of electricity generated by wind power has been growing at over 15 percent a year since 2000; photovoltaic energy by over 60 percent; and biomass burning by over 14 percent, according to EREC data.

Europe already gets 10 percent of its energy from renewables, Lins said.

Globally the picture is less clear. The Paris-based International Energy Agency said fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas are expected to supply 77 percent of the new demand for energy up to 2030.

However, the IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook report released this month said renewables would be the fastest growing energy sector, rising from 2.5 percent of total power output in 2007 to 8.6 percent in 2030 — a figure that could increase three-fold with a global climate change deal.

“Renewable energy is an essential part of the future energy mix. We support that aim as a company with major investments in wind, solar and biofuels,” Tony Hayward, chief executive of the energy multinational BP, said in a speech to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last month.

“But the harsh reality is that as of today, all of the world's wind, solar, wave, tide and geothermal energy accounts for only around 1 percent of total consumption,” Hayward said, adding he expected that 80 percent of the world’s energy was still likely be from fossil fuels by in 2030.

The International Energy Agency’s report estimates that investments of $10.5 trillion would be needed in renewable energies in order to reach the target of limiting the global temperature increase to 2 Celsius. Even that colossal sum could be offset in savings in heating, transport and health bills, it says.

As the economic opportunities become clearer, Lins said European companies that have been in the forefront of developing renewable technologies are coming under pressure.

“Other parts of the world are really catching up very quickly,” she said. “The U.S., China, but also emerging markets like India. We really need to continue to invest in the sector to make sure that we keep the leadership.”

Setting an example, EREC has converted its 140-year-old Brussels’ headquarters into a showcase for the industry, getting its energy from an array of solar and photovoltaic panels, bore holes to produce geothermic power and boilers burning compacted wood dust from sawmills in the Ardennes forest.

The Renewable Energy House has become something of a tourist attraction, drawing more than 15,000 since its opening in 2006.