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News 08 July 2021

EERA's annual strategic gathering underlines the unavoidable need for international cooperation if we are to reach the net-zero goals

Bringing together more than 60 participants, counting the newly elected Executive Committee members and their Personal Representatives, the Joint Programme Coordinators, and the EERA Secretariat, the 2021 edition of the EERA Annual Strategy Meeting discussed critical issues in the EU energy policy field. It also reflected on the strategic role of the Alliance in the European and international contexts.

The EERA Annual Strategy Meeting (ASM), previously known as Summer Strategy Meeting (SSM), is the yearly strategic gathering of the main EERA constituencies. In this event, EERA's strategy is shaped based on the input received from the research community, EU policymakers, and other external stakeholders.

Under the mission name "FIT-4-2030", the 2021 edition took place on 29 and 30 June, holding particular significance as occurring in a context of intense policy activity at both EU and global levels. More specifically, this year's strategy meeting aimed at collectively sharing and reflecting on the latest activities of the Alliance. Among these, its involvement in writing the core of what will become the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) of the Clean Energy Transition Partnership (CETP) and the recent release of the final draft of the EERA flagship "White Paper on the Clean Energy Transition". Moreover, some sessions were devoted to co-creating the roadmap for implementing EERA's strategic vision and mission.

Day 1: EERA Strategy Thinking

An introductory speech by Nils Røkke, President of EERA, opened the first day of the ASM 2021. He addressed the audience by highlighting the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to bolster the race to net-zero. "Following the cascade of new climate pledges across the world, delivering on the climate objectives will need bold decisions from global leaders. The race to move towards sustainability is officially on: a race that will call upon some organisations such as EERA to deliver", stated Mr Røkke.

Following the introduction, Ivan Matejak, EERA Operations Director, and Rosita Zilli, EERA Senior Policy Officer, led a session dedicated to the SUPEERA project (https://www.supeera.eu/). Both speakers provided a brief overview of the latest developments in the EU energy and climate policy landscape. They also explored the work carried out in this framework through the SUPEERA project's lenses, detailing its priorities and related activities.

Through structured discussions organised among the participants, the EERA community reflected on the strategic topics covered and the activities carried out by the recently launched Strategy Working Group (STRAT) and its three thematic Task Forces. The ASM provided an overview of the latest work carried out by the Task Forces in the themes of Clean Energy Transition, European Centres of Excellence, and stakeholder positioning to maximise the Alliance's impact.

Later in the day, Adel El Gammal, EERA Secretary General, presented the EERA flagship "White Paper on the Clean Energy Transition". This publication, that will be officially released in October 2021, proposes a conceptual framework addressing the transition to net-zero from a systemic, cross-sectoral, and multi-disciplinary perspective providing a holistic approach to the complex challenge of the Clean Energy Transition in Europe.

As a wrap up for the first day, two parallel brainstorming sessions were held. The first one focused on the role of the CET in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the broader societal sustainability topic and tackled how to integrate the work of EERA within this framework. The second session addressed the Alliance's interdisciplinary strategy and, based on the approach taken by the New European Bauhaus, sparked the discussion on what could become possible when well-established ways of thinking and existing structures are challenged and debunked.

Day 2: Boosting International Collaboration

The second day featured two interactive panel discussions gathering high-level external stakeholders. The panellists represented European and international stakeholders. The EU Commission's DG RTD and DG ENER and the SET Plan Steering Group were among the first. The international community was present through speakers coming from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

The first panel discussed the positioning of EERA as a trusted scientific advisor to the SET Plan and the Clean Energy Transition. By highlighting the strategic importance of the SUPEERA project, the discussants underlined EERA's pivotal contribution in the EU energy policy field, especially in helping to align policies and translate them into actions.

The second panel addressed the urgent need for an accelerated, impact-driven international cooperation and the role that EERA could have in this context. Clara de la Torre, Deputy Director-General at DG CLIMA, underscored that "addressing climate change is a collective responsibility, and a solid international collaboration is crucial to avoid the risk of delaying climate neutrality by several decades". Ms de la Torre also emphasised the importance of boosting investments in Research and Innovation (R&I), a crucial point brought forward by Anna Krzyzanowska, Special Advisor on Mission Innovation at DG RTD, and Dolf Gielen, Director of the Technology and Innovation Centre at IRENA. More specifically, Mr Gielen stressed the need for more robust systemic innovation and called for a higher integration between energy and digitalisation.

For his part, Tom Howes, Head of the Energy and Environment Division at IEA, gave an overview of the conclusions from the latest IEA reports. Mr Howes underscored the need to boost international collaboration beyond the developed world, an assertion also shared by the concluding intervention of Frank Mugyenyi, Head of the African Minerals Development Centre.

Concluding remarks

After enriching discussions and exchanges of opinions, the 2021 EERA ASM concluded with valuable inputs that will contribute to the co-creation process that EERA is carrying out towards materialising its strategic vision and mission to support society in its path to climate neutrality.

In the view of EERA’s President, Nils Røkke, the Alliance has a key role to play as an actor that is already a successful example of what is possible when bringing together into collaboration the whole spectrum of the low-carbon energy technologies and systemic topics. And as collaboration becomes more evident as a crucial aspect for the transition, EERA has a successful story to share, learn from, and capitalise upon.