29-01-16

The Energy-System Approach

The EU Commission aims to refocus the strategic plan to support energy technology (SET Plan) on the priorities of the Energy Union

The EU Commission aims to refocus the strategic plan to support energy technology (SET Plan) on the priorities of the Energy Union. The EU Commission criticises the existing SET Plan for the fact that its technology-specific research support is failing to take sufficient account of the synergies between the various energy technologies.

The planned shift away from technology-specific research funding with precisely defined technology roadmaps in favour of an energy-system approach will be better suited to the unpredictability of the development of new energy technologies. By refocussing the SET Plan towards the prioritised areas of the Energy Union, state funded research projects can concentrate more on the long-term EU energy policy targets.

Any provision of EU funds for bringing new technologies to market, however, will distort competition between technologies in the EU and should therefore be rejected in principle. If market launches are nevertheless going to be supported, this must be time limited, otherwise there is a risk that technologies that are permanently unprofitable will become state supported over many years.

The Commission, if it really does want to subsidise "close-to-market" projects via the European investment fund EFSI, should not simply list examples of these – "large-scale industrial demonstrators and building renovation" or "smart grids" – but also clearly specify the limits. Without additional criteria, it is unclear whether and why for example "large-scale building renovations" are worthy of funding in the context of the SET Plan.

Dr. Moritz Bonn, Division for Environment, Energy, Climate, Transport, bonn(at)cep.eu