The upbeat tone of the occasion was set by the Executive Director of European Commission’s Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) Dirk Beckers, who said ‘It’s going to be a very interesting and important day.’ And it certainly was – if you missed out you can watch here: https://scic.ec.europa.eu/streaming/horizon-2020-work-programme-2016-17-secure-clean-and-efficient-energy-info-day-l
Didier Gambier of EASME noted that although INEA had the lion’s share of the organisation of the Info Day, the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) also held significant responsibilities in administrating the SME instrument and the energy efficiency topics of the work programme.
The vision for Europe’s Energy Union sets the context for the Work Programme, and Rudolf Strohmeier, Deputy Director-General from DG Research and Innovation, sought to share some of the thinking behind the Energy Union – primarily driven by the need to ensure secure, sustainable and affordable energy for European citizens and industries.
‘At present, our energy system is not up to the challenge,’ he said. ‘We must be ambitious in our goals and coherent in our position in international negotiations,’ referring especially to the upcoming COP21 in Paris.
The five dimensions of the Energy Union are: energy security, a fully integrated energy market, energy efficiency, emissions reduction and research and innovation.
‘If the EU is to be number one in renewables it must lead in innovations and new technologies,’ said Strohmeier. ‘We are not quite where we would like to be. Investment money is available but it’s going elsewhere and regulatory uncertainty is one of the biggest barriers to investment in low carbon technologies.’
It’s estimated that the energy sector will need investment of EUR 200 billion per year between now and 2020.
Strohmeier cited public administration as a key sector for cooperation. ‘The Energy Union must be a collective exercise,’ he said, and emphasised that public finance must be increasingly used to minimise private risk and attract other investments. Energy consumers will be critical to managing demand response, this last comment provoking a response on Twitter:
The Strategic Energy Technologies (SET) plan is the technology pillar of the EU Energy and Climate policy. It sets out a long-term energy research, demonstration and innovation agenda for Europe, including concrete strategic milestones to be achieved in the coming years. The main idea of the SET-Plan is to employ available resources in a smarter way through joint strategic planning and programming. Andras Siegler, director of the Energy Department at DG Research & Innovation presented some of the outcomes of the SET plan, which has been a cornerstone of EU climate and energy policy since 2007.
‘Energy is a fundamental issue for Europe, its citizens and economic wellbeing,’ said Siegler. ‘There is a widespread consensus that there must be a dramatic shift in how energy is produced, distributed and consumed.’ He admitted that there was room for improvement in the plan, nonetheless ‘it has triggered substantial investment into prioritised technologies.’
Gwennael Joliff-Botrel (Head of Unit, Energy Strategy, DG Research & Innovation) drew attention to the cross-thematic priorities, encouraging applicants to look in for energy topics in LEITs (Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies) for calls on energy efficient buildings for example, or also under LEITs ICT and the internet of things (EUB-2), biomass production and marine energy under Societal Challenge 2, social innovation under Societal Challenge 6 and under Societal Challenge 7 – CIP-1 critical infrastructures (grid) access to risk finance and support for first of a kind demonstration projects (InnoFin and Energy Demonstration Program [EDP]). Industry-led public private partnerships include green vehicles, bio-based industries including biofuels and the European Investment Bank is involved in developing first-of-a-kind demonstration projects.
President Claude Juncker’s ambition for Europe to be ‘no. 1 in renewables’ was referenced by Paul Verhoef, Head of Unit ‘Renewable Energy Sources’ at DG Research and Innovation in his presentation on competitive low carbon energy.
He anticipates extra budget for the ‘human factor’ in transforming energy systems and managing demand response, and consultation is underway with experts in the social sciences on how best to manage this budget. Experience from the Member States shows that integration of renewables into the current grid system is manageable up to a penetration of about 50 per cent – beyond this tipping point there are implications for rethinking the distribution (grid) system. He also noted that the potential of solar heating and cooling remains underexploited on residential and public buildings.
Remy Denos, DG Energy, shared fascinating insights into the view from the electricity system as a whole . Recommended reading here is the Summer Package on electricity markets and reforming wholesale prices and retail prices for consumers. The share of renewables in the electricity system is about 24 %, with wind and solar accounting for about 8.4 %, although these figures mask the diversity of the energy mix across Member States and the exponential growth of wind and solar over recent years.
Paul Hodson, Head of Unit ‘Energy efficiency’, DG Energy quoted Gunther Oettinger and energy efficiency guru Steve Fawkes in his opening remarks. He stressed the need for private investment into energy efficiency and signposted the heating and cooling strategy to be published at the end of this year.
In the context of the Energy Union, Hodson emphasised that the consumer is at the centre of the energy transition and key to managing demand response. In the Energy Efficiency work programme 2016-2017 there is a specific consumer-oriented focus area with dedicated topics (check out EE6, EE7, EE8), demand-response in smart homes / energy management systems technologies (EE12) and enforcement of the energy efficiency products legislation and consumer awareness raising towards the most energy efficient products (EE16, EE6).
The important work of the Energy Efficiency Financial Institutions Group was mentioned by Hodson as he outlined the existing EU framework (EFSI, ESIF, H2020, Smart Finance for Smart Buildings) to finance energy efficiency. Horizon 2020 holds great opportunities for project promoters to address the challenges of aggregation (project development assistance EE22), de-risking (standardisation and benchmarking EE24) and market based culture (innovative financing schemes EE23).
There are excellent opportunities for pubic authorities to lead in energy efficiency projects (see slide). Vincent Berrutto (EASME) emphasised INEA – EASME cooperation in Horizon 2020, in particular in the areas of energy efficiency and smart communities. He also explained the roots of EASME, evolving from the Commission’s first executive agency EACI which was founded 10 years ago to manage the Intelligent Energy Europe program. Now EASME is involved in SME support, energy, environment and some work on maritime activities. Administration of part of Horizon 2020, COSME, LIFE and part of Maritime Fisheries Fund gives the agency a total budget of EUR 11 billion between 2014 and 2020.
Project promoters should also take account of the support provided by the National Contact Points (NCP). NCPs provide an interface between the European Commission services and the potential beneficiaries of H2020 funding including guidance on choosing relevant h2020 topics, advice on administrative procedures and contractual issue, training and assistance on proposal writing, along with assistance in the search for partners.