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Support at EC level

Historically, research and development funding to wind energy and other renewable energy technologies have been a fraction of the funding to conventional energies. According to the IEA, over the period from 1974–2002, nuclear energy research financing was approximately three and a half times greater than that dedicated to renewable energy. The technology achievements in wind energy are even more impressive given that the sector has received a mere 1% of energy research funding in the IEA countries in the three decades between 1974 and 2002. In the same period, nuclear energy received 58% or $175 billion, and fossil fuels 13% (see Figure 7.1).


Figure 7.1: Total energy R&D shares in IEA countries 1974 to 2002, source EWEA

Figure 7.1: Total energy R&D shares in IEA countries 1974 to 2002, source EWEA

Energy research funding in the EU has decreased dramatically and is currently at one-fourth of the level in 1980, according to the European Commission. Furthermore, the dominant part of EU research funding continues to be allocated to nuclear energy. In its first review of EU energy policies, the IEA called for the EU to change its priorities:

“The current Framework Programme allocates €1.95 bn, or almost 40% of the energy funding, to nuclear fusion, a technology that is only expected to contribute past 2050. It will be important for the achievement of the EU climate change targets that this funding allocation is revised at the earliest possible opportunity, and that funding for non-nuclear energy research and development is increased significantly,” stated the IEA in September 2008.

The EU FP7 Euratom programme allocates €1,947 million to nuclear fusion, €287 million to nuclear fission and €517 million to nuclear research activities of the Joint Research Centre (JRC). In total, EU nuclear energy research funding totals €2.75 billion over the five-year period 2007-2011 or €550 million per year.

Non-nuclear energy research under the EUs FP7 receives €2,300 million, over the seven-year period 2007-2013, or €460 million per year.

Over the next five years, the average annual EU research budget for energy will be:

Total Energy Research: €1,010 million

  • Nuclear energy research: €550 million (54%)
  • Non-nuclear energy research: €460 million (46%)
    • Of which app. half to renewables and energy efficiency: €230 million (23%)

How much of the EU non-nuclear energy research budget will go to wind energy is not earmarked, but as shown in figure 7.3, wind energy received €25 million under FP5 and €32 million under FP6, or approximately 3% of the total FP7 energy research budget.

Funding for Overall Non-Nuclear Energy (NNE) Research

In 2005, the European Commission’s Advisory Group on Energy released a report that demonstrated the full extent of the reduction in European Union funding for energy R&D through its Framework Programmes.

Regarding FP6, the Strategic Working Group of the Advisory Group on Energy pointed out:

"in face value terms, expenditure is now less than it was 25 years ago, in real-value terms it is very much less and, as a percentage of the total Community R&D, it is roughly six times smaller.”

Two years later, the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) was adopted. Again, it was pointed out that:

“Public and private energy research budgets in the EU have declined substantially since peaking in the 1980s in response to the energy price shocks. This has led to an accumulated under-investment in energy research capacities and infrastructures. If EU governments were investing today at the same rate as in 1980, the total EU public expenditure for the development of energy technologies would be four times the current level of investment of around EUR 2.5 billion per year.”

This state of facts is illustrated by Figure 7.2, showing that energy research funding as a percentage of all EU R&D funding has reduced from 66% in FP1 to around 12% in FP6, and 7% in FP7.

Figure 7.2: Energy spending in the seven Framework Programmes. Source: EWEA

Figure 7.2: Energy spending in the seven Framework Programmes. Source: EWEA

Funding for Renewable Energy Research

Under FP6, EUR 810 million was dedicated to R&D under the “Sustainable Energy Systems” Chapter (EUR 405 million to long-term R&D, administered by DG Research, and EUR 405 million to short- to medium-term research, administered by DG TREN).This represented a reduction of some 20% from FP5.

The name of the chapter or budget-line, “Sustainable Energy Systems”, engendered a lack of transparency in the funding process. The chapter included, for example, "clean coal" technologies, focusing mainly on the sequestration of CO2. It also included hydrogen and fuel cells, which are not energy sources.

For FP7, the lack of transparency still remains. The EUR 2.35 billion budget available for non-nuclear energy under the Cooperation programme includes the following chapters:

  • Hydrogen and fuel cells
  • Renewable electricity generation
  • Renewable fuel production
  • Renewables for heating and cooling
  • CO2 capture and storage technologies for zero emission power generation
  • Clean Coal Technologies
  • Smart energy networks
  • Energy efficiency and savings
  • Knowledge for energy policy making

In 2007 the budget committed to projects was approximately EUR 0.32 billion.

Funding for Wind Energy Research

The European Commission has provided an analysis of the evolution of the R&D budget over FP5 and FP6. Comparison between FP5 & 6 is provided in Figure 7.2 on three main aspects:

  • Large size wind turbines
  • Integration and management of wind power
  • Wind farm development and management

Due to two integrated projects (DOWNWIND and UpWind), the average project size increased significantly between FP5 and FP6. The EC contribution also increased by 27%, and reached EUR 31.59 million, an average of EUR 7 million/year – one tenth of TPWind requirements.


Figure 7.3 EC funding levels in FP5 and FP, source: European Commission

Figure 7.3 EC funding levels in FP5 and FP, source: European Commission

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