On 1 February the European Commission presented the Green Deal Industrial Plan aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of Europe's net-zero industry while supporting the fast transition to climate neutrality. The Plan relies on four pillars: a predictable and simplified regulatory environment, accelerated access to finance, enhanced skills, and open trade for resilient supply chains.
In the context of the first pillar, the Commission is ought to present between the 14 and the 16 March a series of Acts: a Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA) providing an adequate environment for the scale-up of clean energy technologies, a proposal for reforming the electricity market design (EMD), to make it more resilient and sustainable, and a Critical Raw Materials Act (CRM), to ensure sufficient access to those materials. During the past week, a few leaks concerning these files became public, all containing important elements for the clean energy research community grouped in EERA.
For instance, the NZIA states that “research and innovation activities increase the resilience of the Union’s clean energy sector” and that investments in R&I are crucial in ensuring the development of clean energy technologies that are still at a demonstration or prototype stage today, but which will make significant contributions in the long term to the achievement of net-zero industries in the Union. The same spirit also animates the reform of the electricity market design. The EMD draft reads that reforms in the pipeline will support Europe’s position as a global leader in terms of research and innovation in clean energy technologies and that tariff methodologies shall consider both capital and operational expenditure to provide appropriate incentives to support related research activities, and to facilitate innovation. Lastly, in the leaked draft of the CRM Act, R&I programmes are seen as essential to ensure the effective roll-out of projects along the critical raw material value chain and to facilitate the technology scale-up needed, particularly in the field of circularity.
This week, the Commission will present its proposals at the upcoming College meetings (14 and 16 March). Whether the provisions analysed will make it through the final versions of the Acts or not, it is highly probable that the underlying idea of R&I investments as crucial for the scale-up of clean energy technology and for a more resilient and sustainable net zero industry in Europe will remain unchanged.