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Research and innovation to accelerate Europe’s energy transformation

renewables, funding, smart grid, storage, technology, EU, Plan 2020, integration, green electricity, Gemini, Wind Energy

The SET-plan is about maximizing the potential of the innovations that already are happening by better linking it together. More cross-border, cross-sector integration.

Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete told the audience in his speech last week that Europe needs a more targeted,integrated, and transparent approach to solve the Energy demands of the future. 

Cañete: A rapidly changing energy and climate landscape requires realignment in the way we work.

His SET-Plan is based on three principles:

  1. A simpler, more focused approach
    Speed with the 2020/2030 goals by focusing on the priorities with the greatest potential to help meet the objectives set in the Energy Union
  2. More integration, transparency and accountability
    innovation breakthroughs in one sector or one country should be shared across the EU energy system
  3. powered by smart financing to make sure investment is directed to where it is needed

Not reinventing the wheel

The plan is about maximizing the potential of the innovations that already are happening by better linking it together. More cross-border, cross-sector integration.

The SET-Plan is meant to integrate with the Strategic Transport Research and Innovation agenda and with the Global Technology and Innovation Leadership Initiative. These three contribute to the research and innovation competitiveness strategy to be presented as of part of the State of the Energy Union in 2016.

More targeted approach

Thanks to advances in European technology, the cost of photovoltaic (PV) systems has fallen by 50% in the last four years, while wind turbine prices fell by almost 33% over the same period.

Thanks to innovations and effective research renewables get up to 15% of the EU final energy consumption, 26% in the electricity sector. But the EU needs more: the SET-plan focuses on a small number of big priorities.

  • Reducing the cost of renewable energy technologies to ensure Europe is world leader in the field
  • Developing smart grids that can reply to the need of energy consumers and prosumers
  • New technologies to improve energy efficiency, in particular of the building stock
  • And increasing the sustainability of the transport system, for example through electric vehicles or reducing the cost of batteries

CañeteIn addition, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Nuclear, can be added for those member states interested in those technologies. The plan highlighted a series of ten actions to support those priorities.

2. More integration, transparency, accountability

  1. the level ambition (in terms of priorities and funding)
  2. cross-border, cross-sector integration
  3. he modalities for the implementation
  4. he timing for the delivery of results
  5. more transparency
  6. more accountability

 

But in return for greater integration, transparency, and accountability the commission has to make sure that the projects with the greatest potential have the access to the investment they need.

3. Smart Financing

renewables, funding, smart grid, storage, technology, EU, Plan 2020, integration, green electricity, Gemini, Wind Energy

It is the largest farm of its kind in the world. Its 600MW will supply renewable electricity for more than 1.5 million people and 785,000 households! That’s equivalent to a 1.25m ton reduction of CO2 emissions. Not to mention the jobs and income it will bring to the region.

We have all seen the results of what targeted investment can do. Take for example of the Gemini offshore wind farm off the North Sea coast of the Netherlands.

Offshore wind farms are expensive – 2.8 billion euros in this case. The truth is that large scale projects of this kind are often viewed as risky. New ways to fund these projects are needed: public money will never be enough.

The new strategy leverages as much private investment as possible from as little public funding needed.

With the Gemini project for example the European Investment Bank invested 587 million euros of EU public money.

That investment acted as a guarantee and encouraged a number of other public and private actors to invest the remaining money needed. Public institutions must act as a guarantor to incentivise private funding and allow financial institutions to offer long-term financing to projects with a higher risk profile.

To support that we have doubled the funding for energy research from 2014 to 2020 and we have ring-fenced 35% of all research money for climate technologies. In fact we are investing in clean energy technologies in all parts of the EU budget – from regional to maritime funds!

The EU has common challenges we need to pool together our resources.

Conclusion

The debate over the last two days provides the perfect launchpad for our discussions with Member States starting tomorrow.

Those discussions will continue up to and beyond Paris where I hope we can review our level of ambition upwards. That will then feed into the Commission’s Strategic Communication on Research and Innovation due before the end of 2016.

 

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