EU calls for €50-billion investment in low-carbon technologies

7 Oct 2009

The European Commission has called for substantial additional investment in research in low-carbon technologies (LCT) and estimates an additional investment of €50 billion will be needed over the next 10 years.

This investment, it says, is vital in order to address climate change, secure EU energy supplies and ensure economic growth.

This means almost tripling the amount EU countries spend on LCT research, from €3 billion to €8 billion, every year for the next 10 years, until 2020.

“Upgrading investment in research in clean technologies is urgent if Europe is to make the road to Copenhagen and beyond cheaper,” EU commissioner for science and research, Janez Potočnik, said.

“With today’s estimates, the commission wants to make the SET Plan a springboard to leap into a low-carbon economy, which is only possible if public and private actors pool resources in a coherent way. Increasing smart investments in research today is an opportunity to develop new sources of growth, to green our economy and to ensure the EU’s competitiveness when we come out of the crisis.”

The commission, together with industry and the research community, has drawn up technology “roadmaps” outlining the steps that need to be taken to reach their objectives for the technologies with the greatest potential at EU level: wind, solar, electricity grids, bio energy, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and sustainable nuclear fission.

The commission also proposes a ‘Smart Cities Initiative’ to be implemented by local authorities in 30 cities across Europe. The program aims to reduce greenhouse emissions in these cities by 40pc by 2020, through the introduction of low CO2 transport and energy-efficient buildings.

“Previous industrial revolutions have proved that the right technologies can transform for the better the way we live,” said commissioner for energy Andris Piebalgs.

“Today we have a unique opportunity to change an energy model based on polluting, scarce and risky fossil fuels, into a clean, sustainable and less-dependent one. All depends on choosing the right technologies.”

Some 80pc of European energy requirements are met by fossil fuels that are imported into the EU and are the chief culprits in the production of greenhouse gases. Low-carbon technologies reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, are locally produced and less dependent on foreign supplies while also providing employment.

A recent study of the commission concluded that the 20pc EU’s objective on renewable sources is likely to create more than 600,000 additional jobs in the EU, and the RES sector will employ 2.8 million people by 2020.

The European Commission is calling upon public authorities, business and researchers to join efforts in the development of the necessary technologies, in the context of the implementation of the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan), the technology pillar of the EU’s energy and climate policy.

Different sources of funding are considered, from public and private sectors at national and EU level, to be used in a co-ordinated way will also help to push forward a fast-growing industrial sector and to create jobs.

“The investment that needs to develop clean and renewable energies can only be met through a wide range of financial instruments. The commission and the EIB have already significantly increased funding for this purpose,” said Joaquin Almunia, commissioner for economic and monetary affairs.

“But we need to mobilise more public and private-sector funds. We propose to reinforce the Risk Sharing Finance Facility, further support venture capital and develop the Marguerite and other funds.”

By John Kennedy

Photo: The European Commission’s ‘Smart Cities Initiative’ aims to reduce greenhouse emissions in 30 cities by 40pc by 2020, through the introduction of low CO2 transport and energy-efficient buildings.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years