Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs has promised to table a proposal for a new directive on renewable energies for heating and cooling before the end of 2006 after a massive show of support in the European Parliament.

The Parliament on Tuesday (14 February) threw its weight behind a resolution drafted by German Socialist MEP Mechtild Rothe calling for a new directive to promote heating and cooling from renewable energy sources.

Speaking in plenary after the vote, EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs announced that he would follow suit by proposing new legislation before the end of the year. According to the European Forum for Renewable Energy Sources (Eufores) - a lobby group chaired by Rothe - the directive should set a target to at least double the share of renewable energies in heating and cooling by 2020. Over 40% of the primary energy consumption in Europe is used for heating buildings, for domestic hot water production and for heating in industrial processes, Eufores points out. Rothe said she is confident that the massive show of support for her resolution will send a strong signal to the spring summit of EU leaders in March, which will focus heavily on energy supply security issues.

"Renewable energy has to be supported and strengthened for a more secure energy supply, a better and sound environment as well as for the competitiveness and the potential of innovation within Europe," Rothe said.

In a simultaneous development, the International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a new publication on 14 February calling for more R&D investments in the renewable energy sector. The publication shows that IEA countries have experienced a serious decline of R&D budgets for renewables compared to the period following the oil shocks of the 1970s.

"Countries must improve their market deployment strategies for renewable energy technologies and above all, increase targeted renewables for RD&D [Research, Development and Deployment]," said Claude Mandil, Executive Director of the IEA.