An updated SET-Plan to serve the Energy Union
The European Commission has published its strategy on Energy Union, with which it aims to achieve a robust energy union in Europe and adopt a forward-looking policy on climate change. The Energy Union package clearly identifies the crucial role of next generation renewable technologies in accelerating the transformation of the European energy system.
In its Communication on the Energy Union Package (COM(2015) 80 final), the European Commission stressed that a new strategy for Research and Innovation (R&I) should lie at the heart of the Energy Union. This new strategy, which should comprise an updated Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) and a strategic transport R&I agenda, will accelerate energy system transformation by ensuring more effective links between research and industry, thereby bringing new technologies to the EU market.
Specifically, the Energy Union aims to reduce dependence on single suppliers and ensure the free flow of energy across borders - strictly enforcing the current rules in areas such as energy unbundling. The strategy also aims to fundamentally rethink energy efficiency and treat it as an energy source in its own. Finally, the strategy aims to ensure a durable and resilient translation to a low-carbon society, by ensuring that locally produced energy, including from renewable sources, can be absorbed easily and efficiently into the grid.
In a press release issued following the adoption, Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič said that this decision brought an important message to every European household and business - that Europe is serious about fundamental energy transition. “Today, we take a big step towards an energy market that is economically sustainable; socially inclusive; and environmental friendly. An energy market that is integrated, interconnected, resilient and secure,” Šefčovič said.
Representatives from the renewable energy sector were cautiously optimistic about the strategy. Rémi Gruet, the newly-appointed CEO of Ocean Energy Europe, said that the Energy Union communication presented actions to speed up the transformation of the energy landscape through industries where Europe enjoys a competitive edge.
“It correctly highlights how the transition can create great opportunities for jobs and growth. Clearly, ocean energy technologies tick all of the Energy Union boxes and will be of strategic importance for creating a long-lasting and meaningful Energy Union,” he said. Frauke Thies, policy director at the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) said that, now that the strategy has been adopted, further steps would be required. “Europe needs an adapted energy market that boosts rather than hampers the energy transition and empowers consumers to access and control affordable, clean and secure energy," she said.
Šefčovič said that the Energy Union should deliver free flow of energy across Europe, as if it were a fifth freedom. “The Strategy we have adopted is the most ambitious European energy project since the European Coal and Steel Community. It has the potential to boost Europe's integration project the way the Coal and Steel did back in the 1950's, and it should remind citizens – but also our companies - of the great potential of the common European market,” he said.
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