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Call for Solar Europe Industrial Initiative to accelerate technical progress



European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik calls for the establishment of a Solar Europe Industrial Initiative to speed progress and meet EU energy and climate goals.

In a speech to the general assembly of the European Photovoltaic Technology Platform in Ljubljana, Slovenia on 6 June 2008, Commissioner Potočnik said such a move would enable European Industry to make the collective investments needed to accelerate technological progress. This would help create jobs and lead to the realisation of the EU's energy and climate goals.

No other area of European policy has seen the same activity as the energy sector over recent years. Despite this, there is still a need for action on a number of fronts in order to achieve a significant reduction in emissions. Research and innovation in energy technologies are of vital importance to the achievement the EU targets for 60% to 80% reductions by 2050.

Agenda already set

A need for new technologies and insufficient European funding and activity in the field are the reasons for the EU Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan presented by the European Commission in November 2007. This initiative sets the agenda for energy research and innovation in Europe to speed progress on the development of low carbon energy technologies beyond a business-as-usual scenario. Its objective is to address the concerns that Europe is lagging behind in energy research spending, both in terms of public and private financing.

The SET Plan outlined the need for additional funding from the Commission for the industry as a whole, and also set down a proposal to initiate several European industrial initiatives, including a Solar Europe Initiative (SEI). These initiatives should be industry led and further research and technology innovation.

The justification for a Solar Europe Industrial Initiative is compelling, particularly when factors such as its potential, the need to meet competition in the global market and the favourable current policy environment and market situation are taken into account. It is in the interests of European industry to pool resources to address technology challenges.

Number of objectives

Such an initiative would incorporate the European Photovoltaic Technology Platform's goal of reaching grid parity in most of Europe by 2020. The SEI initiative will have to achieve a number of objectives:

  • Aligning technology development with energy policy goals;
  • Developing and maintaining strategic technology alliances, such as the relationship between the PV Technology Platform and ETAP;
  • Strengthening European energy research capacities;
  • Further development of Trans-European energy networks;
  • Implementation of transition planning; and
  • Increasing financial and human resources.

By creating such an initiative, European industry and the research community could combine their efforts to make collective investments needed to accelerate technology progress in this relevant field. The resulting breakthroughs would hasten the achievement of cost competitiveness in European and foreign markets. This would lead to an increase in market shares, the creation of employment, and the achievement of the EU energy and climate targets.

It should be a single solar industrial initiative that represented both the photovoltaic and concentrated solar power sectors, one that tackles the issue of benchmarking together. In addition, it must develop both the centralised and distributed generation potential of PV, as it is one of the few technologies that can be truly embedded in urban areas of consumption.

With the support and guidance of the European Commission, and funding opportunities offered by the Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7), a European industrial initiative in this area represents the next stage in the remarkable development of PV technology in Europe. Such an initiative would act as a springboard for PV to make significant contribution to Europe's electricity supply as the century progresses.

More information:

Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/res/setplan/communication_2007_en.htm

Towards a Solar Energy Industrial Initiative (speech): http://ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/potocnik/news/docs/20080606_speech_photovoltaic.pdf

European Photovoltaic Technology Platform: http://www.eupvplatform.org/

Future vision for PV: A vision for PV Technology up to 2030 and beyond (2004 conference): http://ec.europa.eu/research/energy/photovoltaics/introduction_en.html

Targeting a low-carbon future

The European Commission has launched six industrial initiatives as part of its intention to move Europe towards a low-carbon future. It is targeting sectors for which working at Community level will add most value by sharing risk, pooling public and private finance, fostering public-private partnerships and leveraging additional resources. These initiatives are:

The basic principles of such Initiatives are that they are led by industry, boost research and innovation, accelerate deployment of technology, deliver progress beyond business-as-usual, define and realise clear quantifiable targets and contribute to political goals such as sustainable energy and climate change.

More information:

Towards a low carbon future – A European Strategic Energy Technology Plan:
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