An Extraordinary General Assembly of the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) taking place in Brussels on 6 March decided the “voluntary” dissolution of the non-profit organisation after more than a decade in existence. According to a press release, the dissolution was due to high liabilities arising from lease obligations for the three large office buildings which make up the Renewable Energy House (REH) at 63-67 Rue d’Arlon in Brussels. Since the inauguration of the REH in 2006, EREC had been the main tenant of all three buildings and would have been until 2032.
More than ten renewable associations are currently subtenants in the REH. However, the difficult market situation of some renewable industries had left some building parts vacant and the overall decreasing rents in Brussels were not helping either. At present, the future of the REH remains unclear and much depends on the outcome of the negotiations with HRH Prince Laurent of Belgium. Prince Laurent chairs the Global Renewable Energy & Conservation Trust (GRECT), which is the owner of the building complex.
A bad time to lose a showcase for the industry
According to the above-mentioned press release, the prince is also the initiator of the challenging project, which started in 2005 with a proposal to turn a 140-year-old neoclassical building at the heart of Brussels into a perfect example of renewable energy use and energy efficiency. The REH has so far attracted 20,000 visitors from all over the world. Energy efficiency measures have cut the building’s energy consumption in half and the remaining needs for heating, lighting, cooling and ventilation are met entirely by renewable energy.
In the press release, Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes, President of the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), regretted that “the, ultimately, inevitable dissolution of EREC could not come at a more inappropriate time. Without a strong sense of collaboration, the European renewable energy sector will lose ground in competing against the ever more desperate fossil fuel and nuclear industries and their lobbies.”
The history of EREC
EREC was founded back in 2000 as the umbrella organisation of the European renewable energy industry, trade and research associations by six European renewable energy organisations, among them the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF), as well as EPIA, ESHA, EUBIA, EUREC and EWEA, which were later joined by five other associations (AEBIOM, EGEC, EREF, ESTELA, EU-OEA). In January 2014, however, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) left the organisation, after having already moved out of the REH in 2010.
“The last decade has shown us what a high level of consensus and collaboration can achieve,” Hinrichs-Rahlwes is quoted in the press release. In 2004, EREC called for a binding EU renewable energy target of at least 20% by 2020. Five years later, the Renewable Directive 2009/28/EC set the binding target of supplying at least 20% of the EU’s final energy consumption through renewable energy sources by 2020. In 2011, EREC then called for a binding target of 45% of renewable energy by 2030 to pave the way for a 100% renewable energy future of the EU by 2050.
The next months will show whether the renewable energy associations in Brussels once again put their heads together to overcome the currently disadvantageous situation.