Non-Nuclear Energy Cooperation Needs a New Push

Article excerpt

The policy agendas of both the U.S. and the EU recognise the importance of low-carbon technologies to achieve energy policy objective.

The EU has spent the past year working on the commitments undertaken by the EU Heads of States during the European Council on March 8-9, 2007. They committed to the following targets for 2020: increase energy efficiency, reduce primary energy consumption by 20 percent, use renewable energy for 20 percent of overall EU consumption, have renewable energy (primarily biofuels) make up 10 percent of overall EU transport energy and reduce greenhouse gases by at least 20 percent by 2020.

To achieve these goals, the European Council adopted a Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) in March 2008 to accelerate the innovation of low-carbon energy technologies whilst encouraging European industry to turn threats of climate change and insecurity of supply into opportunities to increase competitiveness.

The SET Plan will be implemented through two notable initiatives. First, it creates a European Alliance on energy research to improve the coordination of research agendas at the community level. For such a purpose, a structured dialogue--comprised of high-ranking leaders of research institutes from member states--will be set up. In addition, the SET Plan includes a number of European Industrial Initiatives (EII) in well-targeted priority areas such as wind, solar, biofuels, electricity grids, C[O.sub.2] capture and storage, hydrogen and Generation IV nuclear reactors. These initiatives will aim at reinforcing research and innovation with the objective to improve performance and reduce costs, mobilize the required "critical mass" and combine the efforts of the community, member states, and industry.

The SET Plan also includes a strategy for international cooperation which reinforces the already well-recognized and increasing need for greater global cooperation in achieving new science and technology for energy. This strategy will consolidate the positions of member states to achieve a more coherent partnership effect. The SET Plan does not start from scratch but builds on a set of actions already in place, such as the EU Research and Technological Development (RTD) Framework program, Intelligent Energy Europe (part of the Competitiveness and Innovation Program), the European Technology Platform (which brings stakeholders together to discuss research agendas), the European Research Area Networking Scheme (which encourages member states to coordinate Research and Development--R&D--programs), Networks of Excellence (which give research centers the opportunity to work together) and the already-existing Joint Technology Initiative on Hydrogen.

Over the years, the U.S. and EU have developed a solid relationship in scientific and technological cooperation which--in addition to our bilateral initiatives--includes activities in multilateral partnerships such as the International Energy Agency for renewable technologies, the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum for clean coal and carbon-capture-and-storage (CCS) technologies.

Both sides have worked on the idea that the political dialogue on energy and climate change should include R&D aspects on a systematic basis. In the final declaration of last year's EU-U.S. Summit, second generation biofuels, C[O.sub.2] capture-and-storage, energy efficiency, new renewable energy technologies, hydrogen and fuel cells were mentioned as relevant topics for transatlantic R&D cooperation. …