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Wednesday, 28 September 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

28. Renewable energy in the EU

  President. – The next item is the debate on the report (A6-0227/2005) by Claude Turmes on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy on the share of renewable energy in the EU and proposals for concrete actions [2004/2153(INI)].


  Claude Turmes (Verts/ALE), rapporteur. Mr President, the 21st century will be the century of renewable technologies. This Tuesday afternoon we organised a conference with major industry representatives and it was really impressive to see the wide diversity of renewables and new developments such as ocean energies, solar thermal electricity and second-generation biofuels.

When we speak about renewables we are not just talking just about security of supply, about the environment; it is also about the future industrial and economic policy of Europe. Because we have had a small number of dedicated countries, this sector is one of the sectors where Europe is leading the world. Last week I was in Denmark. Denmark has won the biggest-ever wind investment in the world, in the US, and it is a Danish company which will do it.

So we have an advance in this technology and we have to keep it. We therefore need a political approach. We also need a systemic approach to energy policy. The best renewable energy is the intelligent use of energy; it is energy efficiency.

A second important systemic approach – and this is something that we often forget – is appropriate energy densities. Taking electricity to heat or to cool a house is completely irrational and uneconomic. Via our energy policy we must give up today's inefficient uses of energy and move on to the use of low-temperature renewables or waste from electricity production.

Let us look at the sectors. In the building sector – we had a concrete example of this on Tuesday – with Commission money we are financing a project in Hungary. It was a Plattenbau – one of those very bad buildings. There was a monitored 80% reduction in energy. Then, what was a small 5% of solar heating, if you do an 80% reduction, immediately becomes a 25% of renewable share. That means more comfort for the people who live there and job creation in Europe. Especially in eastern Europe, refitting the building stock and then modernising the central district heating systems to bring biomass instead of coal, is a major part of that area.

Now to solar thermal cooling: yes, we can cool houses with solar energy, and this is a perfect combination because when the sun is there, buildings are getting hot, but then the sun is also there to help us produce energy to cool this building. Therefore in the building stock it is one of the huge opportunities and Mechtild Rothe will mention some policy instruments in that area.

In the electricity sector, ocean energy will be the next big development and we have to put money into solar thermal electricity development. For the southern part of Europe, that is a big opportunity and in the sun belt of the world there is also a big industrial opportunity for our industries.

But we have to put the functioning of the electricity market right. Commissioner, we talk a lot about it. I think we have to act more fiercely. We need ownership unbundling. We need to stop subsidies for coal and nuclear energy and we need a stable framework for renewable electricity.

My final words go to the transport sector. Transport is the most inefficient sector. A car only has an efficiency of 10-12%, whereas in the electricity sector we are at 40%, and in the heating sector we are at 80-90%, so the first work in transport is efficiency through mandatory efficiency for cars, moving trucks from road to rail and so on, and only then do biofuel and second-generation biofuel make sense. There again we need a stable framework until 2020, otherwise investments in second-generation biofuels will not happen.

Lastly, I would like to thank all those colleagues who were with me. I think we did a good job and I hope that we will see a good vote tomorrow.



  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. I would like first to express my gratitude to Mr Turmes, the rapporteur on the Commission communication on the share of renewable energy in the EU, as well as to all of his colleagues who contributed to this report.

This issue has increasing importance not only with the current high oil prices but also for the medium- and long-term policies in the European Union. We have already had the chance to speak about this today. I would like to emphasise that even if in the renewable sector we have made quite substantial progress, still a great deal should be done, even with the target that is for overall consumption from renewable sources such as green electricity and biomass, we are still far from fulfilling the targets we have for 2010. The Commission is doing all it can to encourage and pursue the Member States to stick to those targets. It is clear that we need to and can do better.

I really enjoyed reading the report. It presents a cohesive and comprehensive overview of the possibilities that exist in the short and medium term as regards renewable energy.

I understand that there have been amendments to alter certain parts of the report. As this is an own-initiative report from Parliament, I will not comment on all elements in the report or the amendments, but take some of the key points of the report.

First of all I was impressed with the broad overview of the possibilities that renewable energy allows us. It goes to show that we can make changes in our energy mix in the future.

Furthermore, I was very pleased to see the complex and systemic way that Parliament is approaching energy. You rightly say that liberalisation is linked with fair conditions for renewable electricity. You also team energy efficiency with renewable energy. You have a vision for the use of research, market uptake and support schemes. Furthermore, you argue convincingly that renewable energy is part of the global solution to our global problems on energy. And finally, but also very importantly, you also link competitiveness, security of supply and environmental protection.

I want in particular to welcome the points devoted to biomass. This sector is very important in the draft. I can inform you that an action plan will be adopted by the Commission at the end of November. The energy potential of biomass in the Union is significant and needs to be developed. I share the view that biomass energy is intimately linked to other European policies. In the recent Commission proposal for a Council decision on rural development, the Commission proposed the integration of biomass and biofuels in rural development as an important new market in a sustainable agriculture.

It is obvious that direct support measures will remain essential in the future to ensure sufficient penetration of renewable energy in the market and to meet our agreed targets. As you know, the Commission aims to adopt a communication on support schemes on renewable energy sources at the end of November.

This communication will be a good opportunity to evaluate the many different support schemes which actually exist in Europe. It will also address the barriers which are hampering the development of renewable energies. These include complex licensing procedures and poor integration of renewable energy in local planning. We have to do a thorough analysis of the various national systems. On the basis of their impact we will have to decide on a larger-term perspective.

On heating and cooling, I welcome the own-initiative report from Mrs Rothe which will also contribute to bringing the appropriate initiatives forward. I have seen the amendments on heating and cooling, and the Commission will carefully consider what more can be done in this respect.

In the current context of high oil prices we have to react with determination and ambition. I outlined my five-point plan earlier today, a plan which has the support of the Commission.

I once again thank the rapporteur and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy for taking the initiative to prepare the report that allows us to have the debate today, and will help the Commission to come up with appropriate initiatives.


  Dimitrios Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. – (EL) Mr President, I should like, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, to thank the rapporteur and to congratulate him on his important report.

Given the important advantages of renewable sources of energy, the question is how we can further promote their development, so that the citizens of the future can enjoy their advantages. Steps have been made but, as the Commission recently reported, there is a significant delay in relation to the targets set in Directive 2001/77/ΕC. Consequently, we need to do more and I believe that we need to do more on four counts.

Firstly, we need to create a more favourable political environment for renewable sources of energy. The role of governments is decisive here given that, unfortunately, the large multinationals are still investing first and foremost in oil. So we need a fabric of incentives to encourage alternative energy investments and create profitable markets.

Secondly, we need to create a suitable legal framework which will support renewables. A framework which will go beyond the confines of an energy system which, together with its legal bases, was built at a time when renewable sources of energy were more or less unknown.

Thirdly, we also need immediate public and private investment in research to develop better and cheaper technologies in relation to renewables and

fourthly, we need to set binding quantitative targets up to 2020 both for overall production from renewable sources of energy and for electricity for heating and cooling.

Two hundred and fifty thousand jobs could be supported with planned investments in the future of renewable sources of energy.


  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture. Mr President, I thank the rapporteur for his work and his consideration of the views of the Agriculture Committee on this important report. I suppose there has never been a better time for a report on renewable energy. As I came down to this debate the price of oil is at USD 67 a barrel, and as we know its supply is finite. And all the while, if you look at rural areas of the European Union, where much of the renewable energies will come from, they are screaming out for sustainable alternative enterprises.

It is deplorable, in my view, that the EU is unlikely to meet its 12% renewable energy consumption target by 2010. It is obvious that in some Member States there is neither the will nor the inclination to take seriously the need to generate renewable energy, while others are forging ahead. The Biofuels Directive sets targets of 2% market penetration for biofuels by the end of this year, but in Ireland a target of only 0.03% for biofuels has been set.

As for the whole area of biomass production – this so-called sleeping giant of renewable energies – which the Commissioner has just mentioned, I am pleased to see that we will have an action plan in this area. It is very much to be welcomed.

The contribution of the common agricultural policy towards renewable energy production must be recognised in both biofuels and biomass. Renewable energy can assist rural areas by providing diversification options, securing farm income and generating jobs. But incentives are required to make sure that the many renewable options reach their full potential. Specifically, taxation policy must not hinder the expansion of renewable energy.

While we are keen to encourage diversification by our farmers, I want to add a word of caution. There is a concern that there may be a conflict in time between the production of crops for food and for non-food usage, and that would be regrettable. Both must be sustainable and provide incomes. I agree that the rural development policy in the future must have as its priority the promotion of renewable energy.

I will finish by saying that yesterday in Ireland, 60 000 people were at a ploughing championship, many of whom were talking about this whole area of renewable energies, and one researcher, who has worked tirelessly for 20 years, said to me: 'At last, I think, our time has come'.



  Peter Liese, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I, too, wish to join in thanking Mr Turmes, our rapporteur.

The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats is in favour of renewable energy, but we have occasionally had to remind Mr Turmes of the need for the matter to be approached with more realism. Indeed, we did partly succeed in this when it came to the vote in committee. The report has many positive aspects. The subject of biomass was very important to us, and I am pleased that we succeeded in voting in a whole chapter. We want to see harmonisation of European support systems in the electricity field over the long term. We know that this cannot be done overnight. In the long term, however, we must create a single European market for this, too, with all its benefits; one of the purposes of which – and this is another important point for us – being to reduce costs. We have limited funds, and we have to achieve as much as possible with those at our disposal. This is why support systems have to be oriented with a view to reducing costs.

We still take issue with a few aspects of the present draft of the report. For example, we feel that the target of 25% by 2020 presents problems and have tabled amendments on this. We believe that not only the positive aspects of wind power should be discussed, but that issues of grid stability and the local people’s objections must be taken into account. We believe that more attention should be paid to the field of heating and cooling than the report already does, because a great deal can be achieved in this field with little money: considerable reductions in the quantity of fossil fuels used and of carbon dioxide produced. These are also the reasons why we want to promote renewable energy: we want to reduce dependence on oil and gas, and we want to bring the problem of climate change under control.

For these reasons, I ask for support for the PPE-DE Group’s amendments. There should be no doubt, however, that Europe must cooperate on renewable energy.


  Mechtild Rothe, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, I, too, should like to start by thanking the rapporteur, Mr Turmes, most sincerely for his outstanding report and for his excellent cooperation. In spite of the few words of criticism from Mr Liese, I am very confident that this report will be adopted tomorrow with a large majority.

The current oil crisis, in particular, has made it increasingly clear that finite sources of energy must be replaced with constantly self-renewing sources. The EU has recently launched a successful strategy for the expansion of renewable energies, which includes legal requirements for targets, for example for electricity from biofuels. We have achieved market penetration and thus made an important contribution to the fight against climate change. Creating 300 000 jobs and producing an annual turnover of approximately EUR 15 billion, this expansion has also made an important contribution to the Lisbon Strategy. The efforts being made are insufficient, however.

As has also been noted already, the level of compliance with the biofuel targets is far from satisfactory, and the Commission has had to give a number of Member States strong reminders about meeting the electricity targets. Obstacles to be removed include bureaucratic barriers, problems of grid capacity and inadequate support systems. For I have not yet given up on one thing: the idea that we can meet the target of doubling the renewable-energy share of overall energy consumption to 12% by 2010. There is one thing that remains very important to this end, however: closing the legislative gap in the field of heating and cooling. This means that we need clear legal requirements with clear targets, in order to create incentives for the Member States to take appropriate action, and in order to exploit the considerable potential of biomass, solar thermal energy and geothermal energy in this field. This is a very important message to the Commission, therefore: I urge you to take action in this field and table the appropriate legislation.


  Vittorio Prodi, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I too should like to thank Mr Turmes for his work, for the work that we have done together. The document is very important because it restores the balance in a situation that seems to favour centralised, concentrated energy production.

Renewable energies have been remarkably neglected. Now, at last, we can consider redressing the balance and therefore devote to renewables the research effort that they have not enjoyed until now, but which they deserve because of the essential contribution that they can make to our energy requirements.

They contribute to a guarantee of sustainability, in that they are non-CO2 emitting and CO2 neutral, and to our energy independence, as well as to job creation in the European Union precisely at such a difficult time, as we have already seen today in the debate on the oil document, thanks to technology in which we are world leaders.

It will be an effort that should first of all give us precise information on the contribution that each source can make. I am sure that their contributions will be extremely important in an absolute sense – beyond our wildest dreams – not least because production will be spread out. That will lead to a greater sense of responsibility and a leap forwards in energy efficiency, through the widespread adoption of electricity generation coupled with heating and cooling at the same time. That approach should be a priority, because it embodies our commitment.

In particular, I should like to highlight the contribution of biomass; in gas conversion processes it can produce hydrogen directly, and we all know how important that is. Other renewables like wind power have already made a considerable contribution, and others are extremely promising. That must be our commitment, and I believe that with Mr Turmes and his group we shall succeed in doing a lot more work yet.


  Umberto Guidoni, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I join in thanking Mr Turmes for the excellent work we have done together.

Let there be no doubt: the great majority of the scientific community is now convinced that greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause of the rise in global temperature, and there remains a reasonable doubt that the increasing frequency and violence of recent natural disasters are correlated with this warming.

To reduce greenhouse gases we have to aim at bringing the oil age to an end and turning to alternative energy sources, starting with the first alternative source which is energy efficiency. A policy to increase efficiency and reduce waste can, within a few years, achieve a saving of over 20% in oil consumption; a similar amount could result from a massive switch to renewables such as wind, solar and biomass.

The European Commission’s Green Paper on energy is a good starting point but, for it to be effective, research programmes need to be prepared that can simulate the development of sustainable and competitive energy systems, including by means of multi-annual demonstration projects – here in the European Parliament, for instance –and policies supporting small and medium-sized enterprises that invest in the sector.

Mass investment needs to be accompanied by financial and fiscal incentives for alternative energies, aiming at the development of the necessary infrastructure – for hydrogen for instance – and at sustainable transport.

The role of the European Union is decisive, not least to spur on national policies and to put Community directives into practice: only by making a coordinated effort across the continent can Europe become a credible player in global energy policies.


  Mieczysław Edmund Janowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Mr President, I would like to commend the rapporteur on his excellent work. The various energy crises coupled with the prospect of the exhaustion of non-renewable organic fuels in view of increased demand and the need to protect the environment have led to increased interest in sources of renewable energy. I therefore welcome the decision to debate this issue in the House.

Mr Turmes referred to the sun. Even if all the supplies of fuels such as oil, gas, coal and wood could be burnt as efficiently as possible, the amount of energy obtained would only be equal to the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth in barely four days. That is something worth noting.

The issue we are debating is of fundamental importance, and it is unfortunate that we are debating it late at night with so few Members present. There are many aspects to the challenge before us, for instance the technical, research, environmental, climatic, economic, social and defence aspects to name but a few. Specific action in this regard must be taken across the whole Union, with due consideration for international cooperation. This should be undertaken in individual countries ...

(The President cut off the speaker)


  Sergej Kozlík (NI). – (SK) Regrettably, the countries of the European Union do not possess significant natural sources of energy. A few months ago, the institutions of the European Union addressed the issue of energy security in Europe. According to one admittedly platonic statement, the dependency of European countries on external energy sources will increase from 50 to 70% in the next twenty years.

If we consider the implications of these facts, then the energy policy of the European Union appears markedly naïve, especially from the standpoint of securing an adequate level of energy self-sufficiency. I certainly support measures in favour of increased energy efficiency, establishing the preconditions for an increase in the share of alternative and renewable energy sources, and energy conservation. On the other hand, to have a realistic chance of meeting energy requirements, Europeans must overcome their phobia of nuclear energy and of established forms of energy production, operated, of course, in strict compliance with environmental and operational norms. European institutions should also adopt a more far-sighted approach to the closure of existing energy installations. In this context, I must criticise the decision, motivated largely by political considerations, to decommission prematurely the nuclear power plant at Jaslovské Bohunice, in spite of the fact that the plant meets operational safety requirements. This will weaken the energy potential not of only Slovakia, but of the entire European Union, and will draw away resources that might have served, among other things, to finance programmes aimed at supporting alternative forms of energy.


  Nikolaos Vakalis (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we know that the question of promoting renewable sources of energy is of crucial importance.

The recent opinion simply emphasises this. I think that Mr Piebalgs' recent five-point action plan moves in this direction.

Allow me now to focus our attention on two issues.

Firstly, we need to promote the independence of island systems in the European Union. In my country, for example, we have a great many islands which are cut off from the national electricity grid. Advanced hybrid generation technologies, which combine renewable sources of energy and storage technologies, need to be applied to independent energy systems as a matter of priority. This will allow us to have independent, decentralised energy units, together with constant production and supply of energy to the consumer.

The second issue relates mainly to solar and wind energy. Connecting them to existing energy networks is causing problems. The Commission needs to study best practices in managing networks, in order to resolve these problems. This must be our first concern, if we want renewable sources of energy to penetrate each country's energy system.


  Adam Gierek (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, energy produced from renewable sources should be exploited according to the technological priorities for a given country. The climatic and agricultural conditions prevailing in Poland mean that biofuels should have priority for immediate support, with geothermal energy in second place. The experience gained to date, however, does not paint a particularly rosy picture concerning the production of electricity from solid biomass. Amongst other reasons this is due to the low efficiency of conversion of heat energy into electrical energy, and also to logistical and environmental problems. In addition, wood-based biomass has to be dried to remove about 20% of its water content, and this process consumes additional energy.

Another priority for Poland could be energy contained in municipal waste. Not only is this energy source constantly renewing itself, but is actually increasing at a dramatic and alarming rate. By definition, it is certainly a renewable source of energy. Existing technologies such as pyrolysis make it possible to obtain hydrocarbons from the waste and convert them efficiently into electrical energy. The benefits are twofold: energy as well as a form of secondary recycling and liquidation of landfill sites. The Commission should recognise this type of energy as renewable energy.


  Esko Seppänen (GUE/NGL). – (FI) Mr President, Commissioner, the rapporteur, Mr Turmes, has, in his own inimitable manner, produced a thorough report, this time on a strategy for the use of renewable energies. The report deserves credit and speaks for itself.

It is predicted that the world’s population and use of energy will continue to grow. When we speak of renewable biofuels and the cultivation of energy crops, it must be realised that energy production competes with food production for the same area of land. Considering the current prices of oil and grain, it may be cheaper to use grain rather than oil as a heating fuel. At the same time, a large number of people in the world are starving. That is the way the market mechanisms work.

While following the Greens’ energy strategy – and Mr Turmes is a Green – I have noticed that there is a hostile attitude to research into the use of fusion energy. Like Mr Turmes, we are in favour of financing research into renewable energy sources and energy efficiency under the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. That, however, cannot be allowed to happen at the expense of research into nuclear fusion. Mankind needs to explore this possibility for energy production thoroughly. It is an energy resource which is halfway between being renewable and non-renewable. We are faced with problems, and solving them will rely on the coordination of population growth, food production and renewable energy production.


  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I wish to congratulate the rapporteur on a highly informative report on the 21 types of renewable energy, which will play an ever-increasing role in the 21st century, whether from a climate-change perspective or that of the security of supply of fossil fuels and increasing prices.

My own country, Ireland, is uniquely placed for the development of green energy and green fuel: we have the technological base, the climate and amongst the strongest wind and waves in Europe off our Atlantic coast. Just yesterday our minister announced a new scheme to support another 400 megawatts of renewable capacity. However, despite all of that, the ambition of our renewables sector is completely frustrated. Again the minister has got it wrong: his proposal is an attempt to defy economic gravity. He is proposing the only scheme in Europe to cap prices and quantities. This will totally distort competition in a market that is already stacked against independent renewable generators.

We do not have de facto liberalisation of the electricity market in Ireland. The investigation into anti-competitiveness practices in the electricity market announced six months ago by Commissioner Kroes will no doubt show that the ESB – our Electricity Supply Board – like its French counterpart EDF, still holds an effective monopoly and abuses its dominant position as the gatekeeper of the national grid, instead of ring-fencing generation from grid operation with cross-subsidisation of uneconomic fossil fuel generation with the national grid profits. The fear that the ESB could switch off the lights at any time causes the regulators to take a softly, softly approach to the opening up of the market. There is nothing the government can do! It has relinquished all power to form policy in this particular area. The 1999 Act, which set up the Irish Commission for Energy Regulation, had an in-built provision for ministerial policy directions to be cut off in 2002. Conveniently the author of that act is now head of the Irish Commission for Energy Regulation, which has carte blanche to regulate without any government input or supervision. Necessary independent arbitration should not preclude ministerial policy directions.

We have what is effectively a marginal grid policy, where each project requires an upgrade of the grid and has to fight for access on an ad hoc basis. The bureaucracy and financial uncertainty this causes for renewables is considerable. It is high time the Irish Government took back control over shaping a progressive renewables policy in Ireland.


  Andres Tarand (PSE). – (ET) I represent a Member State which certainly occupies penultimate place in the European Union in the use of renewable energy. The reason for this is Estonia’s heavily-polluting and very inefficient – and yet monopolistic – oil shale-based energy. The only partly unavoidable reason for using this energy source is the fact that the value of oil shale is not based on the world price, but has instead been determined by a committee at the Ministry of Economics and Communications. Thus, in heating buildings, we have been independent of price fluctuations on the world market.

Now, however, companies which produce oil from oil shale have apparently raised their prices considerably through a cartel agreement. Since sustainable energy has not been seriously implemented in Estonia, many consumers have no other options. As we all know, it is the poor who suffer the most from price increases.

Today, from morning till evening, the European Parliament has been discussing possible measures for the alleviation of both the social and economic consequences. Our Minister of Economics and Communications, however, has shrugged his shoulders and claimed that there is nothing he can do if oil shale companies have tied the price of oil shale to the price of oil. The price of oil shale itself, however, has not risen.

The moral is that the European Union must increase pressure on those Member States’ governments that are burying their heads in the sand. I wish all power to representative Andris Piebalgs, and I would like to thank MEP Claude Turmes for taking a large step in the right direction.


  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I should like to make some brief remarks.

First, I can assure you that the Commission will do everything within its legal powers to implement the existing directives. Second, there has been enough evidence given today about the necessity for a directive using renewables in heating and cooling. The arguments in favour of that are very strong.

I would also like to mention that it is extremely important that the Committees on the Environment and Agriculture were consulted but, if the objective of renewables is to be successful, then other committees should also take these questions on board. As long as it is just the Committee on Energy, the goals will not be achieved. It is a much broader issue – the committee responsible for taxation questions and other committees, especially those that are concerned with economic development, should deal with these issues.

The report on the situation of the internal market will be ready in November. Then I will be glad to discuss with you the situation and challenges in different Member States. Definitely the situation of market liberalisation differs from one Member State to another.

I thank the rapporteur and everyone else who contributed to this very good report.



  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday at 12 noon.

Written statement (Rule 142)


  Edit Herczog (PSE). – (HU) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,

I strongly welcome the Turmes report outlining the future of renewables according to the overall guidelines of the Lisbon Strategy. I also agree that within the framework of a consistent European energy policy, renewable energy sources can have a positive impact on job creation, environment protection, market integration, research and development, innovation, as well as sustainable economic development in the coming decades.

However, I would like to point out that technologies using renewable energy are very expensive, both in terms of their absolute value and their efficiency. Having said that, the price of energy, especially under current circumstances, is a highly sensitive issue in many of the Member States, to such an extent that it can even endanger social cohesion itself. Therefore I believe that before starting to prepare an overly ambitious policy on renewable energy it is extremely important to support cohesion between regions, Member States and small regions as well as the integration of the European energy market by a comprehensive energy policy based on reasonable balance.

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