Greens attack Netherlands on renewable energy issue

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Series Details Vol.7, No.23, 7.6.01, p4
Publication Date 07/06/2001
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Date: 07/06/01

By Laurence Frost

GREEN groups have accused the Netherlands of "doing the dirty work" for high-polluting countries by blocking a deal to boost renewable forms of energy.

Anger has erupted as the Netherlands and two other countries continue to block a compromise on the renewable energy directive - a key plank in the EU's strategy to meet its Kyoto targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. "It's outrageous that a country that's publicly in favour of renewables takes the political responsibility for stopping the directive," said Giulio Volpi of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The measure aims to boost electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar generators to 22% of all power by 2010. The European Commission has said it will allow government support for green power that would otherwise fall foul of EU rules against state aid.

But the European Parliament is heading for a showdown with energy ministers over whether the targets should be legally binding - MEPs say yes, governments say no - as well as over the ministers' bid to include household rubbish incinerators as renewable sources.

In a bid to bridge the gap, the Swedish EU presidency has tabled a draft compromise, seen by European Voice. It proposes non-binding targets, with an option on binding legislation later if the targets are missed. And it excludes municipal rubbish incinerators from the scheme.

But the Netherlands, Spain and the UK blocked the deal at the last energy working party meeting, prompting anger from environmentalists, who count on the Dutch to back green initiatives. "The Netherlands is doing the dirty work for Italy, which we know hasn't got a good track record on renewables," said Volpi. "Including waste incineration as a source of energy will displace real renewable energy like wind and solar power with dirty waste incinerators."

The Dutch economics ministry reacted angrily to the comments. "The Netherlands never does any dirty work for any other country," said spokesman Jan van Diepen.

He added that economic affairs minister Anne Marie Jorritsma had already told the Dutch parliament that exluding waste from renewable energy "would make it impossible to meet the targets".

The Dutch are committed to household waste incineration as a source of renewable energy. Only half of the waste is from organic sources and environmentalists say it is the burning of plastics - a large part of the remainder - that makes incineration viable. "Burning just the organic fraction would be like burning peel or garden waste," said Volpi. "It has very high moisture content - you need the fossil fuel and plastic products to produce electricity."

Green groups have accused the Netherlands of 'doing the dirty work' for high-polluting countries by blocking a deal to boost renewable forms of energy.

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