February 4, 2011 / 11:33 AM / 7 years ago

EU leaders seek to curb fossil fuel habit

* EU leaders meet in Brussels at first energy summit

* Call for green power grids, standards for electric cars

* Call for total energy solidarity by 2015

By Pete Harrison

BRUSSELS, Feb 4 (Reuters) - European Union leaders look set to agree to merge and strengthen energy networks, a move that gives fresh impetus to the renewable energy industry and will help curb Europe’s growing reliance on fossil fuels.

Europe could do better than the current trend of exporting 2.5 percent of its annual GDP for energy imports, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told leaders at the start of a summit.

That equates to 270 billion euros ($372 billion) a year for oil, and 40 billion euros for gas.

“Major efforts are needed to modernise and expand Europe’s energy infrastructure,” reads a draft version of the summit accord, seen by Reuters.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 percent by 2050... will require a revolution in energy systems, which must start now.”

The EU’s 27 governments committed in 2008 to a goal of getting 20 percent of their energy from green sources -- mostly domestic -- by the end of this decade.

Friday’s accord acknowledges that longer-term growth needs about 200 billion euros invested in a high-tech power grid to carry northern wind power and solar from the Mediterranean to central cities such as Paris and Prague.

Leaders called on the executive European Commission to develop strategies for financing an overhaul of the energy grid, as well as standards for charging electric cars, building computer-assisted “smart” grids and growing sustainable biofuels.

<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ For Factbox on accord details, click here: [ID:nLDE7130OG] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

ENERGY SECURITY

The economic crisis has slowed EU industrial output, aiding its plan to cut climate-warming emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels over the next decade. They are currently down by about 17 percent.

But the crisis has also hindered investment.

Governments are now split between those that have put money and action behind the promised green-tech revolution, such as Germany and Denmark, and those that have merely paid lip-service to the goal. Industry is likewise split.

“We are simply not moving fast enough,” Lars Hansen, Europe president of Danish biotech company Novozymes (NZYMb.CO), told Reuters.

“Look around and you will see massive competition taking off in the U.S., China and Brazil,” he said. “European companies are still global leaders on green technology but we are about to lose our competitive edge.”

The European plan to boost renewables will also help the bloc’s energy security -- a hot issue since imports of Russian gas via Ukraine were cut during three weeks of freezing weather in Jan. 2009.

Leaders agreed that funding should be found for those strategically useful gas links that industry has ignored in its quest for profits -- for example a link across the Pyrenees to carry northwards Spain’s glut of natural gas from Algeria.

“No EU member state should remain isolated from the European gas and electricity networks after 2015 or see its energy security jeopardised by lack of the appropriate connections,” the draft reads.

Reporting by Pete Harrison; Editing by Jason Neely

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