The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Council Decision renewing the ALTENER programme for the promotion of renewable energy sources (RES) for five years from 1998. The current ALTENER programme was launched in 1993 and will expire at the end of 1997. The proposal for ALTENER II will extend the actions underway and introduce new measures aimed at mobilizing private investments and facilitating market penetration of renewable energy sources. In addition, the new programme would also contain actions relating to the implementation, follow-up and monitoring of the EU's strategy on renewable energy sources. The Commission has proposed a budget of ECU 30 million for the first two years of the programme, with the budget in the remaining years to be determined after the Community's financial framework for the years beyond 2000 has been fixed. The aim of ALTENER is to promote the implementation and uptake of the results of research and technological demonstration projects, rather than fund the projects themselves. To maximize this, the programme will encourage the promotion of projects with a multi-regional or multi-national dimension or benefit. ALTENER will also be open to cooperation with the Central and Eastern European countries, and Cyprus, with a view to their eventual accession to the European Union. Mr. Christos Papoutsis, Commissioner responsible for energy policy, stated that Europe is now at a critical stage in the development of renewable energy sources, and that a strengthened ALTENER programme is necessary. The programme would contribute, he continued, to achieving the goal of an increased share for renewables in the energy mix of the EU. Actions to be financed under ALTENER II would include: - Studies intended to implement or complement Community measures taken to develop the potential of different sources of renewable energy; - Development of harmonized standards for products and equipment in the RES market; - Actions to increase confidence and RES market penetration and improve the sector's competitiveness through the development of new financial arrangements, such as third party financing, and the diversification of financial instruments; - Pilot actions aimed at creating or extending infrastructures for the development of RES; - Improved information dissemination and coordination, and exchange of experience and know-how; - Targeted actions facilitating the penetration of RES and encouraging investment by assisting the preparation and presentation of implementation projects; - Actions to monitor progress in the implementation of the EU's RES strategy and action plan, as well as to evaluate the impact and cost effectiveness of measures which will be undertaken under ALTENER.