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European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation
Perspectives of research and innovation towards 2020 – the energy supply industry in a low carbon economy
Event on Perspectives of Energy Research and Innovation towards 2020 / Brussels
26 March 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank Ms Sartori and ENEL for organising this event, and I am pleased that Prof. Carvalho, another firm ally of researchers and innovators throughout Europe, is also with us this afternoon.
To meet our energy challenges and to achieve the transition to a sustainable and secure energy sector, Europe needs to develop a wide range of new energy technologies.
The Energy 2020 Strategy and the Energy Roadmap 2050 have set ambitious goals and ways forward towards the "decarbonisation" of Europe’s energy and transport sectors.
But this ambitious objective can only be achieved with a technological shift in our current energy system.
The EU has traditionally led the development of low carbon energy technologies. However, in recent years the race for new energy technologies has gone global.
To keep our industrial leadership, we must address this challenge collectively, at an EU level. We need to develop EU-wide technology supply chains from materials to components, technologies, system solutions and end-use services.
The Strategic Energy Technology – or SET – Plan provides a framework for the EU to accelerate the development and market roll-out of low carbon energy technologies.
It has facilitated joint efforts from Member States, industry and the research community on key low-carbon technologies.
One concrete example of what has been achieved through the SET Plan is the European Electricity Grid initiative aiming at accelerating the deployment of smart grids in Europe.
ENEL has been a key driver of this initiative and has participated in several important projects including the GRID4EU.
We can be proud of what we have already achieved in the field of energy research and innovation, but we can’t relax because the international context is constantly evolving.
The interplay between different fuels, markets and prices is intensifying and European industry is losing competitiveness because of high energy prices.
There are areas where further efforts are required: energy efficiency is an important option but its full potential remains untapped. The climate goal of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius is becoming more difficult and more costly with each year that passes.
In consequence, we need to revise the EU policy framework and the tools that we have to achieve our targets. More than ever, we have to maximise the impact of scarce public and private financial resources.
The development of new energy technologies should be seen from the perspective of delivering cost effective energy to the final customers, whether light, heat, cooling or clean transport.
So technological development should also consider the impacts on all parts of the energy system – production, transmission, distribution and use of energy – and maximise where possible the synergies between supply and demand.
Another crucial issue is continuity of supply. The market penetration of renewables such as wind and solar electricity generation is predicted to keep growing, but the often intermittent and decentralised nature of the renewables generation creates new challenges for the electricity supply system.
It will mean building new infrastructures or creating new ways of managing the grid, including the use of energy storage.
The Commission will soon launch a public consultation to set the framework for climate and energy policy by 2030 and to tackle the kinds of challenges that I have just mentioned. A green paper is currently being prepared.
In parallel, the Commission is planning a communication on research and innovation in energy technologies to give a new impetus to the SET Plan.
These new policy initiatives will be flanked by actions under Horizon 2020, the EU’s new programme for research and innovation.
These actions will be clearly aimed at making the transition to a reliable, sustainable and competitive energy system, concentrating on seven core areas: (1) Reducing energy consumption and our carbon footprint by smart and sustainable use; (2) Low-cost, low-carbon electricity supply; (3) Alternative fuels and mobile energy sources; (4) A single, smart European electricity grid; (5) New knowledge and technologies; (6) Robust decision making and public engagement; and (7) Market uptake of energy innovation.
Horizon 2020 is all about developing new partnerships to reach our common objectives. The scale of the energy challenge means that we need the public and private sectors working together to develop large-scale research and innovation initiatives on low carbon energy technologies that will match the efforts made by Europe’s major competitors.
As you know, Horizon 2020 is currently under negotiation between the Council and European Parliament.
I am pleased that the inter-institutional negotiations on Horizon 2020 are going quite well and during the last trilogue meeting concrete progress was made on a number of provisions.
There are issues that required further discussion, but I remain fully committed to continuing our work together with the European Parliament and the Member States to obtain a timely adoption of the Horizon 2020 package.
The European Parliament has proved itself a stout defender of research and innovation.
This institution recently voiced again the need for a bigger budget for research and innovation and for pursuing the EU’s energy and climate objectives in its political resolution on the EU budget for the next seven years.
I hope that the outcome of the negotiations, including in terms of the budget, will allow the EU to have a strong research and innovation instrument that will equip us to respond to the challenges we are facing.
We know that stakeholders from the worlds of industry, research and innovation are looking to us.
It is our job to make their jobs easier, delivering a political framework and better tools to achieve a decarbonised economy, while keeping European industry to the forefront of global developments.