Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan)
The Commission presents a strategic plan to accelerate the development and deployment of cost-effective low carbon technologies. This plan comprises measures relating to planning, implementation, resources and international cooperation in the field of energy technology.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 22 November 2007 entitled: "A European strategic energy technology plan (SET Plan) - Towards a low carbon future" [COM(2007) 723 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
Energy technology is vital if Europe's objectives for 2020 and 2050 as regards the fight against climate change, security of energy supply and competitiveness of European companies are to be fulfilled.
However, certain constraints hamper the development and widespread application of energy technologies, be they the chronic underinvestment that has affected this sector since the 1980s, significant delays in the marketing of new products, the additional cost often involved without always giving better energy output, legal and administrative obstacle, or their social acceptability.
In addition, faced with competition from certain industrialised countries and emergent economies, the European Union (EU) Member States must adopt an effective joint approach on the subject of energy technologies. The timing of the adoption of such an approach will also determine whether European objectives are met.
The strategic energy technology plan (SET plan) presented by the Commission aims to help achieve European objectives and face up to the challenges of this sector:
- in the short term by increasing research to reduce costs and improve performance of existing technologies, and by encouraging the commercial implementation of these technologies. Activities at this level should in particular involve second-generation biofuels, capture, transport and storage of carbon, integration of renewable energy sources into the electricity network and energy efficiency in construction, transport and industry;
- in the longer term by supporting development of a new generation of low carbon technologies. The activities to be carried out should focus, among other things, on the competitiveness of new technologies relating to renewable energies, energy storage, sustainability of fission energy, fusion energy, and the development of Trans-European Energy networks.
Implementation of this SET plan will involve collective effort and activities in the private sector, the Member States and the EU, as well as internationally.
The SET plan first of all proposes a new governance method for energy technologies, based on joint strategic planning.
With this in mind, a steering group, created by the Commission in 2008 and made up of representatives of the Member States, will improve coherence by developing joint actions, making resources available and evaluating progress. Also, a European summit on energy technologies is planned for 2009. Furthermore, the Commission will set up a European information system, comprising technology mapping and capacity mapping.
The SET plan also improves the effectiveness of the implementation of the jointly decided actions, so as to take full advantage of the possibilities offered by the European research area and the internal market.
The Commission will therefore gradually launch new European industrial initiatives, in wind energy, solar energy, bio-energy, capture, transport and storage of CO², the electricity network and nuclear fission, which will take the form of public-private partnerships or joint programmes between Member States. Furthermore, the Commission wants to create a European energy research alliance to better coordinate, in terms of programming, the efforts of research centres and universities. A prospective approach will also be adopted to prepare the future development of Trans-European energy networks and systems.
An increase in resources, both financial and human, is another major element of the SET plan. Investment in research and innovation must increase at Community level, through the research framework programme of the "Intelligent Energy - Europe" programme and the European Investment Bank, as well as in the Member States, in order to double the overall effort made in the EU within three years. A communication from the Commission will be issued in 2008 on the subject of funding of low carbon technologies. In addition, the training of energy researchers will be promoted and new research and training opportunities will be created, to increase the number and quality of engineers and researchers.
Finally, the SET plan makes provision for intensified international cooperation, in order to promote the development, marketing, deployment and accessibility of low carbon technologies worldwide. The EU should speak more often with one voice on this matter. Cooperation with developed countries will involve public interest research and long-term exploratory research. As for developing countries and emergent economies, cooperation should allow their sustainable development while creating opportunities for European companies; cooperation could be involved, for example, in networking of research centres, large-scale demonstration projects and increased use of the mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol.