Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

Decarbonizing the European Energy System: The SET-Plan Actions in the Industry and Transport Sectors

Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

Decarbonizing the European Energy System: The SET-Plan Actions in the Industry and Transport Sectors

Article excerpt

The ongoing transformation of the energy system and the role of the SET-Plan

All European citizens should have access to secure, sustainable and affordable energy. This is the primary objective of the Energy Union, one of the key priorities of the current Commission. This objective can only be achieved through a fundamental transformation of our energy system. In such a system, energy would be used efficiently in all economic sectors, low-carbon conversion technologies would generate electricity along with heating and cooling for homes and industries, and renewable fuels would be used for transport as an alternative to liquid hydrocarbons. This transformation of the energy system will bring additional benefits: the fight against climate change will become more effective and new business opportunities will be created, driven by the need for new services and technologies. The success of this transformation depends largely on the effective development and commercialization of low-carbon, low-cost and high-performance energy technologies and their integration into all facets of the energy system. To meet this challenge, research and innovation (R&I) has become one of the five priorities, or dimensions, of the Energy Union strategy.

Since 2007, the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan)2 has supported the transformation of the European energy system through the accelerated development of low-carbon technologies and their integration into the energy system. This is achieved by setting collective targets and aligning national and European instruments and funds to meet them, attracting private investments and stimulating joint activities between member states, the industry and the European Union. The important contribution of the SETPlan in energy policy was confirmed in 2015, when it was identified as the key implementing instrument of the research, innovation and competitiveness dimension of the Energy Union. That year, the European Commission presented a new strategy for an integrated SET-Plan3 with ten actions structured around the Energy Union R&I priorities, to respond to new challenges in terms of what is needed to accelerate the European energy system transformation towards a competitive low carbon economy with consumers at the center. Currently, the SET-Plan is designing the implementation of these ten R&I actions through a wide participatory process4 involving national governments, industry and research actors. The output of the process includes ambitious targets for the further development of low-carbon technologies and the acceleration of the European energy system transformation as well as robust implementation plans. Examples of such targets include cost reductions for offshore wind energy and Li-ion batteries for electro-mobility and stationary storage in homes and in utilities, more flexible energy systems, the deployment of smart cities and communities solutions, better management of electricity consumption in homes, and the development of holistic refurbishment packages for buildings. The implementation plans identify a limited number of concrete R&I activities considered essential to reach the agreed targets. The effort to define the implementation plans is led by member states and co-led by industry, with the European Commission acting as facilitator of the process. This work is based on platforms of discussion between countries and industries that share similar strategic interests in specific energy sectors, and is expected to lead to more coordinated activities between countries as well as more coordination between public and private investments, and possibly to new public-private partnerships.

Ongoing efforts to make EU industry less energy intensive and more competitive

The transformation of the energy system has had a substantial impact on all economic activity, including European industry. The future of European industry will depend on its ability to compete in a global environment, by continuously adapting and innovating through investments in new technologies and embracing changes brought on by increased digitization and the transition to a low-carbon and circular economy. …

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