SET-Plan to kick-start innovation-led energy transition

Miguel Arias Canete at SET-Plan Conference 2015

The Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) Conference which took place in Luxembourg on September 21-22, has provided the stimulus needed to kick-start an innovation-led transition to a low-carbon and high-growth economy in Europe, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said in his closing speech at the conference.

With sessions on accelerating the transformation of the energy system, ensuring the competitiveness of European energy technologies and retaining European leadership in technological development, the SET-Plan Conference put research and innovation at the heart of Europe’s future low-carbon energy system, SETIS’ press release reads.

Miguel Arias Cañete said that the SET-Plan would now concentrate on four core research and innovation priorities:

  • reducing the cost of renewable energy technologies,
  • developing smart grids that meet the needs of consumers and prosumers,
  • developing new technologies to improve energy efficiency,
  • increasing the sustainability of the transport system.

Commissioner Arias Cañete also stressed the need for greater transparency in order to avoid the duplication of research efforts by the Member States.

The issue of financing energy transition was a core topic at the 2015 SET-Plan Conference, with a dedicated session on financing challenges and possibilities, and possible synergies between financing instruments.

Commissioner Arias Cañete said that, given the high costs involved in implementing large-scale renewable energy projects, public money would be insufficient, and that it would be necessary to use public funding to leverage as much private investment as possible. Public institutions must act as a guarantor to incentivise private funding and allow financial institutions to offer long-term financing to projects with a higher risk profile.

The Commissioner said that this was the thinking behind the new €315 billion European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).

Arias Cañete also noted that, in order to fully exploit the potential of European innovation, it would be necessary to look horizontally at the whole energy system across Europe. Europe needs to be as strong as the sum of its research parts – which will only happen if there is more cross-border and cross-sector integration.

Image: SET-Plan Conference 2015/Miguel Arias Cañete