Coordinating energy research for a low carbon Europe
How can Europe keep focus to achieve the objectives of the Energy Union and the global energy and climate agenda at a challenging time for the political union? Is Europe on track to make it happen? The discussion at the EERA event “Cooperation in European energy research & innovation: reality and expectations”, which took place on May 3 in Brussels, highlighted that there is not a unique recipe but that we need a combination of instruments to succeed. European initiatives such as the Integrated Strategic Energy Technology (SET)-Plan and the Commission Communication ”Accelerating Clean Energy Innovation” – at the centre of the debate – take a comprehensive approach and push the boundaries across technologies, policies and stakeholders to support a coherent framework and move the energy agenda forward through the involvement of all stakeholders.
Speakers at the EERA event were: Jerzy Buzek, Chair of the ITRE Committee (European Parliament) and Rapporteur of the Commission Communication “Accelerating Clean Energy Innovation”, launched in 2016 as part of the Winter Package; Mechthild Wörsdörfer, Director Renewables, R&I, Energy Efficiency at DG Energy (European Commission); Patrick Child, Deputy Director-General, DG Research & Innovation (European Commission); Piotr Swiatek, German representative in the SET-Plan Steering Group; Ingvar Landälv, Chair of the European Technology & Innovation Platform Bioenergy; and Nils Røkke, Director of Sustainability at SINTEF and new Chairman of EERA.
The speakers stressed the importance of coherence and coordination of initiatives and policies, even more relevant as energy is still a relatively new kid on the block in the EU policy framework. The effort done so far through the SET-Plan is not trivial but more is needed – with increased resources and their better use – to support innovative investments in energy innovation, bring the right people around the table and show results. Jerzy Buzek called for more financial support to be allocated to the SET-Plan, to increase its impact.
As public investments in European energy R&I are only a minor part, panellists agreed that success depends crucially on engaging the private sector through the right framework to develop research, innovate and bring solutions to the market, in support to the whole value chain. Such a stable, long-term framework for investments is not yet sufficiently developed in Europe. Strategy and activities need to consider a fast changing landscape, where digitalisation is already making a difference in the development of energy solutions and consumers are increasingly taking ownership of their own decisions and becoming propellers of innovation.
For the European Commission, 2017 is the Energy Union year of implementation and EERA, as research pillar of the SET-Plan, has a relevant role to play. Over the years, EERA has contributed through bottom-up coordination of research organisations, alignment of priorities and activities and involvement in all the Temporary Working Groups of the SET-Plan.
”As a cornerstone of the SET-Plan we are committed to deliver”, said Nils Røkke. “EERA will keep on working closely with the Commission and the SET-Plan Member States to contribute to the implementation plan. We will reach out to industry and work in close co-operation with the European Technology and Innovation Platforms to create momentum and consistency.”
Coordination of national and EU resources to achieve Europe´s energy R&I objectives has been and still is a big challenge. Member States play the leading role, as around 90% of European money for research is with them.
“Top-down and bottom-up coordination go hand in hand. We need them both and commitment from all stakeholders”, said Nils Røkke. “I am also opening up the question of EERA representation in the governing body of the SET-Plan: through direct interaction, we can support synergies between top-down and bottom-up processes, making coordination of energy R&I agendas and resources across Europe easier to achieve.”
Looking forward, EERA will also contribute by supporting consumers´ active involvement in energy innovation and playing a role in international cooperation, fostering Europe´s role in the global context. Mission Innovation – the global initiative with 22 countries and the EU to double clean energy R&D investments over five years – is an opportunity in this respect. “We will invite to a dialogue on how EERA can support broader international co-operation: the UN sustainable development goals are telling us that we need to embed sustainability in how we run our society and the planet”, concluded Røkke.
The event was also the opportunity to announce Nils Røkke and Brigitte Bach, Head of the Energy Department at the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), as EERA new Chair and Vice-Chair. They will lead EERA over the next two years.
|Event background and programme: www.eera-set.eu/save-the-date-eera-policy-event-2017/
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Nils Røkke`s blog: http://blog.sintefenergy.com/policy/new-eera-chair-big-shoes-to-fill/ and short biography