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Europe Will Not Meet 20% Renewable Energy Target by 2020

Europe will not be able to meet its obligation to supply 20% of its energy from renewable energy by 2020, states John Hollick, CEO of SolarWall Europe, Sarl. and Chairman of the Solar Air Heating World Industries Association (SAHWIA) due to an error in definition made by the European Parliament.

The operations of buildings – heating, powering and cooling them – account for the largest source of GHG emissions, which helps to explain the rationale for the European Union’s 20% Renewable Energy Target.

In an inexplicable turn of events, Europe’s Renewable Energy Directive has actively excluded solar air heating from its list of approved solar technologies, despite the fact that it addresses the largest usage of building energy in many countries, which is indoor space and process heating.

The exclusion is even more perplexing given that solar air heating technologies produce the fastest ROI of any solar technology and have been widely used in countries and applications around the world, including a very strong concentration in Canada and the USA, for the past 20 years for clients such as Sainsbury, Auchan, Wal-Mart, Ford, Jaguar/Land Rover, Toyota, and the United States Military.

The error came to light when the UK government recently introduced its Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which specifically excluded solar air heating. When the omission was brought to the attention of Greg Barker, Minister of State for Green Energy including Heat and RHI, his department responded with: “The primary objective of the RHI is to encourage the installation of renewable heating equipment and generation of renewable heat in order to meet the UK’s share of the EU 2020 renewable energy target. Therefore, the RHI will only include technologies which the European Commission considers to be renewable under the RED.”

The implication is that the UK and the rest of Europe will be unable to meet their 20% Renewable Energy Target by 2020 because they have no mechanism in place now to target space heating in the commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors.

As well, solar electric (PV) and solar water heating systems are considerably more expensive and produce less energy in comparison to solar air heating systems, so the decision to exclude a solar energy technology that is significantly more cost-effective for end user clients is difficult to understand, especially in an era of tight budgets and fiscal restraint.

It also contradicts the stated objectives of the UK’s RHI: “We need to work hard to remove the barriers holding back take-up…This support can help drive take-up of renewables now, stimulate the renewables industry, encourage further innovation and ultimately bring down the cost of renewable heating.”

Unfortunately the RHI will do the opposite. “Viable solar air heating systems are being excluded in lieu of more expensive water base heating systems just because they are on the “list”. As well as stifling innovation and preventing the widespread uptake in solar heating, this decision will ensure that the UK will be unable to meet their stated renewable energy targets because they are relying on expensive technologies that don’t address one of the largest usages of energy” states Hollick.


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