Solar Thermal Action Plan for Europe

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 Ten years ago, the European Commission published its White Paper on Renewables, proposing a Community Strategy and Action Plan. Since then, European Directives to promote renewables in the electricity sector and in the transport sector have been successful in kicking off substantial growth in these two sectors. However, the renewable heating and cooling (RES-H) sector has been neglected at EU level and in most Member States. Thus, the fragmented solar thermal development is not surprising. If all EU countries used solar thermal as enthusiastically as the Austrians, the EU’s installed capacity would already be 91 GWth (130 million m2) today, far beyond the target of 100 million m2 by 2010, set by the White Paper in 1997. However, this target will be missed by a wide margin, due to the numerous countries that are still in the starting blocks.

We warmly welcome the Renewable Energy Roadmap presented by the European Commission on 10 January 2007, as it defi nitively corrects this misperception and fully integrates RES-H into the European strategy. Regrettably, the Roadmap does not measure up to its own message, as it fails to follow the European Parliament’s resolution of February 2006, which called for an EU Directive to promote RES-H, including targets at EU and national level. This call is widely supported by a broad coalition of industry, environmental organisations, research and citizens.

While the political debate at EU level develops, all Member States are urged to act as soon as possible to promote solar thermal in their own country. This Action Plan helps policy makers to identify successful support strategies. The analyses carried out in the course of the Key Issues for Renewable Heat In Europe project clearly show: Public support policies have had a strong impact on the successful development in countries as diverse as Greece, Austria, Germany and recently also France and Spain.

The most successful countries have supported solar thermal over longer periods – thus avoiding a destructive stop-&-go of the market – and have implemented a coherent mix of measures, which address not one but several barriers to growth.

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