European Union


National[1] Innovation Pathway

Policies and strategies to develop the European Union’s innovation pathway in clean energy technologies

The European Green Deal, presented in December 2019, is a set of policy initiatives by the European Commission with the overarching aim of transforming Europe into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use. A clear 2050 long term strategy, including clean energy technology and innovation needs, has been described and submitted to the UN in 2020. EU Member States have been doing the same at national level.  The European Green Deal makes consistent use of all policy levers: regulation and standardisation, investment and innovation, national reforms, dialogue with social partners and international cooperation.

To achieve a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, the European Commission has announced a Fit for 55 package[2] in 2021 to reduce net emissions by at least 55% by 2030, which includes European Climate Law  This will cover wide-ranging policy areas – from renewables to energy efficiency first, energy performance of buildings, as well as land use, energy taxation, contributions from all EU Member States in non-emission trading sectors.. Achieving an ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction target crucially depends on the decarbonisation of the energy system The new  legislation,  will also aim to improve the integration of the energy system including with regard to electrification and to new renewable fuels such as hydrogen for hard-to-decarbonise sectors. Energy efficiency would contribute to savings of 36-37% for final energy consumption and 39-41% for primary energy consumption by 2030, to meet our increased climate ambition.

Within the Green Deal, in relation to energy, the EC has adopted three strategies on “energy system integration’ , on ‘hydrogen’ and on ‘offshore renewable energy’.  These strategies contain specific sections on promoting clean energy research and innovation, as do the complementary strategies on Biodiversity for 2030 , the Circular Economy Action Plan , and the upcoming Action plan “Towards a Zero Pollution Ambition for air, water and soil” .

Research and innovation clean energy priorities

Since 2008, the Strategic Energy Technologies Plan (SET Plan) has been the core European mechanism to strengthen clean energy R&I policies and programmes’ coordination between the EU, its Member States, industry and research representatives. It provides strategic guidance and its work is organised around 13 Implementation Working Groups with set targets and objectives per technology.

This first Horizon Europe Strategic Plan defines the strategic orientations for our R&I investments over the period 2021-2024 and acts as a compass to stay on course with the political priorities on the twin green and digital transitions.

Clean energy innovation responds to the strategic objective of “making Europe the first digitally enabled circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy through the transformation of its mobility, energy, construction and production systems”.  Clean and affordable energy programmes will be financed primarily through the cluster on Climate, Energy and Mobility.  This cluster will contribute to achieving climate neutrality and the zero-pollution ambition of the energy and transport sector while maintaining their competitive leadership and contribution to Europe’s prosperity. Based on effective and efficient pathways towards climate neutrality, this will include crosscutting solutions for securing, inter alia, the provision of cleaner energy at lower costs, coping with intermittence and energy storage issues.  Furthermore, the objective will be pursued through partnerships with the private sector and “missions”.

The current programming proposes support in the areas of hydrogen, batteries, renewables, energy systems, CCUS as well as energy demand side solutions and breakthrough technologies.

  • In the area of hydrogen, the European Commission in its Hydrogen Strategy set the objective of installing at least 6 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers in the EU by 2024 and 40 GW by 2030. Horizon Europe will support the R&I dimension of the hydrogen strategy through the new Clean Hydrogen partnership with an EU contribution of EUR 1 billion over the next 7 years (to be matched with an equal contribution from the partners in the partnership). This partnership will focus on development and demonstration of large-scale electrolysers to produce renewable hydrogen for storage of renewable energy, as an energy carrier in the energy sector (power, heating and gas), industry (use as feedstock) and for new transport applications (maritime, aviation, rail, heavy transport). The Clean Hydrogen partnership will also accelerate the development and roll-out of Hydrogen Valleys, i.e. local industrial or transport clusters, or isolated areas, where available renewable energy is transformed into hydrogen and stored to feed local needs. In addition, Horizon Europe partnerships in the field of transport will support hydrogen applications with an estimated budget of EUR 250-300 million.
  • To increase the energy efficiency, sustainability, material efficiency and mobility patterns in Europe’s cities and communities, the Commission intends to allocate EUR 460 million over the period 2021-2022 (through the partnerships ‘Built4People’ and ‘Driving Urban transitions’ and through calls for proposals in Horizon Europe). Over the full duration of Horizon Europe, this could tentatively amount to EUR 1.6 billion. Actions will aim at comfortable, affordable zero emissions housing, improving air and water quality, resilience of energy supply, intelligent mobility services, circularity and logistics, liveability and accessibility of cities, public health. Furthermore, the European Commission is considering a ‘Mission on Climate Neutral and Smart Cities’ to support, promote and showcase 100 European cities in their systemic transformation towards climate neutrality by 2030 and turn these cities into innovation hubs for all cities, benefiting quality of life and sustainability in Europe. The final approach and the budget for the Mission will be confirmed in the second half of 2021.
  • Development of a broad portfolio of efficient, affordable, sustainable and secure renewable energy technologies, with a strong focus on offshore wind and PV, renewable fuels, including synthetic and sustainable advanced biofuels, and environmental sustainability of renewable energy technologies (water use, circularity, pollution, ecosystems).The Commission has adopted an EU strategy to make offshore renewable energy a core component of Europe’s energy system by 2050.  The strategy aims to increase today’s installed offshore wind capacity of 12 GW to at least 60 GW of offshore wind and at least 1 GW of ocean energy by 2030, with a view to reach by 2050 300 GW and 40 GW respectively. The challenge means multiplying the capacity for offshore renewable energy by nearly 30 times by 2050.

Other priorities include:

  • Developing a competitive, circular, and sustainable European industrial battery value chain for stationary applications and e-mobility.
  • Building stocks combining life-cycle material and energy efficiency, renewable energy and digital and smart technologies. Energy and material efficiency in industry, with focus on industrial symbiosis and thermal energy management and use of secondary raw materials.
  • Flexibility, resilience and security of the energy system (e.g. integrated energy system planning and operation, storage development and integration, digitalisation).
  • Carbon Capture, Use and Storage (CCUS) as a CO2 emission mitigation option in electricity generation and industry applications.
  • Transforming road transport to zero-emission mobility (e.g. zero tailpipe emissions, charging infrastructure, vehicle-grid-interactions).
  • Aircraft technologies that reduce all aviation impacts and emissions (CO2 and non-CO2, including manufacturing and end-of-life, noise).
  • Climate neutral and clean solutions in the shipping sector to reduce its environmental impact (on biodiversity, noise, pollution and waste management).

[1] For the European Union, the description will refer European Commission clean energy activities.

[2] The impact assessment of the Climate Target Plan, published in September 2020, shows that for a net 55% greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, the corresponding share of renewable energy would be between 38% and 40% for 2030 – depending on the policy mix.