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Brussels, 28 October 2008

Energy for the Future of Europe: The Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan

Making the European energy system more sustainable and secure is one of the greatest challenges facing Europe. The EU responded with the Energy and Climate Package. It contains a set of ambitious targets for 2020: reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels, reducing primary energy use by 20% (through energy efficiency), increasing the level of renewable energy in the EU's overall final energy consumption to 20%, minimum target for renewables in transport of 10%. On November 2007, the European Commission has adopted a proposal for a European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (see IP/07/1750, MEMO/07/494). Energy technology will be a key element of Europe's plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and move towards a low-carbon future. The SET-plan (see MEMO/07/493 for details) should help the European Union position itself to develop the technologies it needs to meet its political objectives and at the same time ensure its companies can benefit from the opportunities of a new approach to energy.

Q: What is the European Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan?

The European Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan – proposed by the European Commission the 22 of November 2007 - will accelerate the availability of new energy technologies. Its aim is to create a long term EU framework for energy technology development.

The SET-Plan brings together the coordination of the European Commission, the research capacities of the major European institutes and universities, the engagement of European industry and the commitment of the Member States. The actions will be based on reliable information about the technology and capacity.

Q: Who is participating to the SET-Plan?

- Coordination: European Commission

Better EU coordination is required in order to benefit from the economies of scale of the national energy R&D efforts. Recent European Commission initiatives such as the ERA-NETs and the Technology Platforms (LINK) are an important step towards mobilising pan-European cooperation.

The European Commission has already implemented important initiatives that can serve as illustrative examples: the European fusion research programme and its flagship 'ITER'; the Single European Sky air traffic management research programme (SESAR); the Joint Technology Initiative on Fuel Cells and Hydrogen to mass market more efficient energy conversion and end-use devices and systems, in buildings, transport and industry, such as poly-generation and fuel cells; and the 'Clean Sky' Joint Technology Initiative on the environmental impacts of aviation.

- Research: The European Energy Research Alliance

The European Energy Research Alliance, a cooperation of major national research institutes will move from today's model of collaborating on projects towards a new paradigm of jointly implementing programmes. The Alliance will be able to cover the multitude of scientific disciplines that have an impact on the development of energy technologies.

- Industry: The European Industrial Initiatives

Six new European Industrial Initiatives in the areas of wind; solar; bio-energy; CO2 capture, transport and storage; electricity grids; and nuclear fission will strengthen energy research and innovation by bringing together appropriate resources and actors in a particular industrial sector.

- Member States: The Steering Group on Strategic Energy Technologies

The Member States will steer the implementation of the SET-Plan. The Steering Group on Strategic Energy Technologies is composed of high level government representatives, chaired by the Commission. It will reinforce the coherence between national, European and international efforts. It allows Member States and the Commission to plan joint actions and coordinate policies and programmes.

- Information: The Strategic Energy Technologies Information System (SETIS)

The Commission will establish and run a regularly up-dated information system, open to all, which will "map" technologies – providing information on the latest situation, barriers to technological uptake and the potential of existing technologies. The Strategic Energy Technologies Information System (SETIS) will also provide up to date information on financial and human resources. Such a system will allow rigorous monitoring of the progress in the development of European energy technologies and provide useful support to policy-making.

Q: How much money does Europe invest in the development of energy technologies?

A: At this stage it is difficult to quantify the exact amount of investment in energy technologies. The EU's 7th Framework Programme for research (2007-2013) has an average annual budget of about €886 million devoted directly to energy research. Member States' budgets vary. Non nuclear research mounts up to 2.35 b€ (2007-2013). For Euratom the budget is 2.751 b€ (2007-2011) - mostly for the international ITER project on fusion (1.94 b€).

Q: Will more money go to energy research from the EU budget?

Firstly we need to use better available resources. The implementation of the SET-Plan will help overcome the fragmentation of the European innovation base, leading to a better overall balance between cooperation and competition. Encouraging more focus and coordination between different funding schemes and sources will help to optimise investment, build capacity and ensure a continuity of funding for technologies in different phases of development.

However, the challenge of mobilising additional financial resources has to be addressed.

The resources needed to accelerate the development of new energy technologies are difficult to estimate, as they depend on the evolution of the market price of current resources and the results of on-going and future research. But, they are certainly larger than the current level of investment.

Recent studies (e.g. the Stern Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and the International Energy Agency reports) confirm that increased energy research investment, to at least double the current levels, will deliver substantial benefits. Equally, the Stern Report recommends an increase in deployment incentives by two to five times, to realise learning benefits (leading to cost reductions of new technologies).

Early in 2009 the Commission intends to present a Communication on financing low carbon technologies that will address resource needs and sources and propose potential avenues to leverage private investment, enhance coordination between funding sources and raise additional funds.

Q: What are the 6 European Industrial Initiatives?

In 2008 the Commission proposes to launch six new European Industrial Initiatives that will target sectors for which working at Community level will add most value – technologies for which the barriers, the scale of the investment and risk involved can be better tackled collectively.

The initiatives are as follows:

  • European Wind Initiative: focus on large turbines and large systems validation and demonstration. Double the power generation capacity of the largest wind turbines, with off-shore wind as the lead application;
  • Solar Europe Initiative: focus on large-scale demonstration for photovoltaics and concentrated solar power. Demonstrate commercial readiness of large-scale Photovoltaic (PV) and Concentrated Solar Power;
  • Bio-energy Europe Initiative: focus on 'next generation' biofuels within the context of an overall bio-energy use strategy. Make second generation biofuels competitive alternatives to fossil fuels, while respecting the sustainability of their production;
  • European CO2 capture, transport and storage initiative: focus on the whole system requirements, including efficiency, safety and public acceptance, to prove the viability of zero emission fossil fuel power plants at industrial scale. Enable commercial use of technologies for CO2 capture, transport and storage through demonstration at industrial scale, including whole system efficiency and advanced research;
  • European electricity grid initiative: focus on the development of the smart electricity system, including storage, and on the creation of a European Centre to implement a research programme for the European transmission network. Enable a single, smart European electricity grid able to accommodate the massive integration of renewable and decentralised energy sources;
  • Sustainable nuclear fission initiative: focus on the development of Generation-IV technologies. Maintain competitiveness in fission technologies, together with long-term waste management solutions;

Q: What is planned for 2009?

Major next steps will be to continue with the implementation of all the initiatives and entities established.

- European Energy Technology Summit

In 2009, to review progress a European Energy Technology Summit that will bring together all stakeholders in the entire innovation system, from industry to customers, as well as representatives of the European institutions, the financial community and our international partners should be organized.

- Planning the transition of European energy infrastructure networks and systems:

The Commission will launch a call for a coordination action in 2009.

See also IP/08/1587

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