EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Sir,

The recent report produced by the National Technical University of Athens – ‘Energy Trends to 2030’ and profiled in your august organ included a comment by Mr. Kjaer of the EWEA along the lines that he thought the estimate for 2030 for wind was unrealistic.

There is a rather interesting back story to this. The Technical University also happens to be the guardian of the sacred flame with respect to the ‘Primes’ energy methodology. This was used to produce the ‘Energy Trends’ report.

In December 2009, the EWEA published its ‘Pure Power’ report with a foreword by Christopher Jones, then director for New and Renewable Sources of Energy at the European Commission’s transport and energy department, who spoke in glowing terms about the report and its contents.

The political ‘entertainment’ in the EWEA report starts on page 33. The EWEA demolishes the Commission’s projections for wind made in 2008 and looking forward to 2010 and 2015. Page 34 gets to the heart of the matter with a straightforward attack on ‘Primes’ and its controller. An extract is shown below:

“The European Commission scenario is obtained with the PRIMES energy model by the E3M Lab at the National Technical University of Athens. It would appear from the wind energy scenarios described above that the E3M Lab’s model is more than a little unreliable and has been so since its introduction in 1996. Unfortunately, it is not only wind energy that the PRIMES model fails to predict. In its 2008 scenario, the European Commission’s PRIMES model even suggests that EU investments in ‘other renewables’ (that is, renewables excluding biomass and wind) will be negative in 2009 and 2010 (see Figure 4.3). It predicts that more than 6 GW of ‘other renewables’ will be taken off the grid in 2009 and 2010. In sharp contrast to this, 4.8 GW of ‘other renewables’ were installed in 2008 alone.”

I think readers get the general idea, but just in case, another relevant extract follows: “The European Commission has allowed the E3M Lab to feed member states and the general public with misleading information about the future of European energy.”

EWEA notes that the ‘Primes’ model was last reviewed in 1997-1998. Given that the model seems to have real ‘form’ in making ‘misleading’ projections, there are a couple of questions that could be posed to EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger (who commissioned the ‘Energy Trends’ report). The first could be “did you know there are some serious doubts about the Primes model’s ability to provide reasonable energy projections?”. It could be followed by ” are there any plans to review the model?” and “do Athens Uni and E3M have the capabilities to operate the model?”.

The last question is not so difficult to answer. Working on the basis that the EWEA’s facts (with respect to the reliability of the model) are correct and given the apparent failure to review the model, then answer seems to be ‘no’.

None of this would matter much if the discussion were about projections for European chicken markets. However, it is about Europe’s energy future. Given the issues raised by the EWEA in its December 2009 report, it might be wise for the Commission to give serious thought to a Primes review and also the right institution to ‘hold’ the model.

Herr Oettinger might also wish to consider the value of the current report given the above comments. I am sure he would not like to mislead member states. Likewise, I wonder if they are aware of the issues concerning Primes.

Mike Parr

PWR

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