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Non-nuclear energy

Technology Platforms

Fission and radiation protection

May 2006
Issue 5

PV Technology Platform – First Year of Operation

The work of the Photovoltaic Technology Platform began in May 2005 when the Steering Committee met for the first time in Brussels. The Steering Committee is chaired by Emiliano Perezagua (Isofotón), and he is assisted by Joachim Luther (Fraunhofer ISE) and Hans Willemsen (Shell Solar). Four working groups of the platform were subsequently set up: policy and instruments; market deployment; science, technology and applications; and developing countries. Renowned experts from across Europe come together within the various groups, and participation is on a voluntary basis. The activities of the platform receive secretarial support from a consortium of four partners, which is financed by the European Commission.

The platform has its origins in a report published in September 2004 by an advisory council of experts, entitled “A Vision for Photovoltaic Technology”, which recommended that such a platform be created in order to work towards common goals. The report also predicted that, as costs continue to decrease, PV will cost less than conventional bulk electricity by 2010 in some parts of Europe, and could provide as much as 4% of electricity across Europe in 2030.

In addition to the working groups, a so-called Mirror Group has been set up so that the activities carried out within the platform can be relayed to the national authorities across Europe. The participants of the Mirror Group are also a valuable resource of information on national research programmes and support policies.

Following the invitations sent to the Permanent Representations of the EU Member States and the Delegations of Associated States and Candidate Countries, the first meeting of the Mirror Group took place on 12 January 2006 in Brussels. The participants selected Mrs De Lillo (Italy) as the chairperson, with Messrs Nick-Leptin (Germany) and Féraux (Belgium) as vice-chairpersons. The second meeting of the Mirror Group took place on 13 March 2006 in Brussels, where the group further defined their intermediate role between the platform and their respective national authorities.

The PV Technology Platform will hold its 1st Annual General Assembly on 19 May 2006 at the European Parliament in Brussels. It is expected that Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Science and Research, will address the participants in the opening session. The meeting will be an opportunity for the platform to update stakeholders on the ongoing work in all of the working groups. In view of the upcoming Seventh Framework Programme, the presentation of the draft Strategic Research Agenda will be of particular interest. The main results of FP5 and FP6 photovoltaic projects will be discussed in the PV Technical Days meeting on 17 and 18 May 2006, and these will be summarised during the General Assembly.

Participation in the General Assembly is open to all interested parties, and further information about registration is available on the website of the PV Technology Platform

Structure of the PV Technology Platform
Structure of the PV Technology Platform

Biomass and Biofuels High on the EU Agenda

Two of the main energy policy targets of the EU are to increase the share of the Renewable Energy Sources in gross inland consumption to 12% and the share of biofuels in the market to 5.75% by 2010. Recent assessments have concluded that these targets are unlikely to be achieved and further efforts are needed. For the biomass sector in particular, 74 Mtoe more are needed by 2010. This additional biomass production can only be achieved in the short term with strong, targeted measures and actions in all sectors, and a better coordination of EU policies.

The Commission has therefore taken an ambitious and coordinated approach to promote the use of biomass and biofuels. The approach includes a Biomass Action Plan, an EU strategy for biofuels and the establishment of a European Biofuels Technology Platform.

Biomass Action Plan (BAP)

In December 2005, the Commission adopted a detailed action plan designed to increase the use of energy from forestry, agriculture and waste materials. The so-called Biomass Action Plan announces more than 20 actions; most of them will be implemented from 2006 onwards.

The plan includes reviews of how fuel standards could be improved to encourage the use of biomass for transport, heating and electricity generation; investment in research, in particular in making liquid fuels out of wood and waste materials; and a campaign to inform farmers and forest owners about energy crops. The Commission will also work on future EU legislation to encourage the use of renewable energy in heating. “Biofuels obligations” for transport biofuels may be introduced, through which suppliers include a minimum proportion of biofuels in the conventional fuel they place on the market.

EU Strategy for Biofuels

In February 2006, the European Commission adopted an ambitious ‘EU Strategy for Biofuels’, with a range of potential market-based, legislative and research measures to boost production of fuels from agricultural raw materials (including forestry). The paper, which builds on the biomass action plan adopted in December 2005, sets out three main aims:

  • to promote biofuels in both the EU and developing countries
  • to prepare for large-scale use of biofuels by improving their cost-competitiveness and increasing research into ‘second generation’ fuels
  • to support developing countries where biofuel production could stimulate sustainable economic growth.

The EU Strategy for Biofuels presents a number of key measures, including stimulating demand for biofuels and capturing their environmental benefits, expanding feedstock supplies, developing production and distribution of biofuels, enhancing trade opportunities, supporting developing countries, and encouraging research and development.

Recommendations for Research in the BAP and the EU Strategy for Biofuels

© Photo courtesy of UFOP e.V.
© Photo courtesy of UFOP e.V.
Both the Biomass Action Plan and the EU Strategy for Biofuels recommend that research and development for biomass and biofuels should receive a high priority in the Seventh Framework Programme. In general, the Commission should support research into the optimisation of agricultural and woody crops for energy purposes, and biomass to energy conversion processes. For biofuels in particular, the Commission should give a high priority to research into second-generation biofuels, and to the concept of bio-refinery (finding a way to produce valuable products and energy from plants).

The European Biofuels Technology Platform

The European Biofuels Technology Platform is a focused initiative in the frame of research on renewable energy sources. It aims to develop cost-competitive, world class biofuel technology, contribute to the creation of a European biofuels industry and accelerate the deployment of biofuels.

To prepare the Technology Platform, a high-level Advisory Council has been established (see RENEWS No 4). The Biofuels Research Advisory Council (BIOFRAC) has delivered its draft Vision report “Biofuels in the European Union – A Vision for 2030 and beyond”. This report outlines the current situation of biofuels and presents a long-term view on how to overcome the technical and non-technical barriers for biofuel deployment in the European Union and worldwide.

The report presents the ambitious and realistic vision that by 2030, up to one-quarter of the EU’s transport fuel needs could be met by biofuels, of which about half is to be provided by a competitive European industry. Achieving this vision would require substantial investment in biomass production and logistics, as well as in conversion to fuels and in engine technologies. Attention should be paid to the issue of cost-effectiveness, and to assessing and monitoring the full environmental impact of biofuels.

The Vision Report recommends that a European Technology Platform for Biofuels should be established. The Technology Platform should support further development and deployment of currently available fuels, and promote the transition towards second generation biofuels. The launch of the Platform is planned for 8 June 2006.

For the latest news on the Platform, the Vision Report and the launch conference see research/energy/index_en.htm

SmartGrids Technology Platform

Vision and strategy for Europe’s electricity networks of the future

The SmartGrids Technology Platform was set up in 2005 to create a vision for the electricity networks of 2020 and beyond. An Advisory Council including representatives from the electricity transmission and distribution industry, system operators, research bodies and regulators was established to develop a “Vision Report” and a medium to long-term Strategic Research Agenda.

Europe’s current electricity grid was developed to cater for large, centralised fossil fuel and nuclear power stations. The trend towards a more diverse energy mix with increasing shares of RES and distributed power generation in the liberalised energy market is changing electricity transmission and distribution needs.

The platform has agreed its initial objectives for research and demonstration projects on electricity networks. The vision includes creating technical solutions enabling existing grids to accept power from all producers; harmonising regulatory standards and protocols for cross-border power supply; developing ICT systems to improve network efficiency; and the interfacing of new and old grid equipment to ensure inter-operability.

The SmartGrids Platform held its first conference in April 2006 in Brussels.

Future Network Vision

Future Network Vision PDF icon [3 Mb]

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