European Union

Highlights in 2019
Highlights in 2019


Update on clean energy innovation policies and strategies

In December 2019, the European Commission adopted the European Green Deal Communication – Europe’s new growth strategy for making the EU’s economy sustainable. It is a roadmap for turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas and making the transition just and inclusive for all. Boosting innovation in clean energy technologies is one of the objectives of the European Green Deal.

The European Green Deal Investment Plan (January 2020) is the investment pillar of the Green Deal. The Plan will mobilise at least €1 trillion in sustainable investments over the next decade. Part of the plan, the Just Transition Mechanism, will be targeted to a fair and just green transition. It will mobilise at least €100 billion in investments over the period 2021-2027 to support workers and citizens of the regions most impacted by the transition.

In July 2020, the EU strategies for energy system integration and hydrogen were adopted. The EU Strategy for Energy System Integration proposes concrete policy and legislative measures at EU level gradually to shape a new integrated energy system, while respecting the differing starting points of member countries. The parallel Communication ‘A hydrogen strategy for a climate-neutral Europe’ complements this Strategy with more detail on the opportunities and necessary measures to scale up the uptake of hydrogen in the context of an integrated energy system. This strategy includes the requirement of further research and innovation efforts to ensure a full hydrogen supply chain to serve the European economy.

To achieve the objectives set out in the European Green Deal, in March 2020 the Commission adopted a proposal for the first European Climate Law enshrining the 2050 climate neutrality objective. The Commission is also taking action on the clean, secure and affordable energy related initiatives that will be forthcoming in 2020, such as the Renovation Wave for the building sector and the strategy on offshore renewable energy. Furthermore, the Commission is working on a comprehensive plan to increase the EU 2030 climate target and on a strategic plan for reducing methane emissions.

The European Commission advanced towards adoption of Horizon Europe – an ambitious €90 billion research and innovation programme that will succeed Horizon 2020 and will run from 2021 to 2027. A meaningful part of the budget (minimum 35%) will be dedicated to projects that fight climate change including measures to improve the competitiveness of the energy and transport industries as well as the quality of the services that these sectors bring to society.

Partnerships under Horizon Europe with industry and member countries will support research and innovation on among others the clean energy transition, transport, batteries, clean hydrogen, climate neutral and circular industries and clean steel, and the built environment. The European Clean Hydrogen Alliance (launched in July 2020) will facilitate coordinated investments and policies along the hydrogen value chain.

Major innovation initiatives and programmes in 2019/20

The latest Horizon 2020 Work Programme, approved in 2019, funds collaborative activities with international organisations, local governments, industry and financial institutions. The Energy Work Programme for year 2020 has a budget of €821 million. In addition, to respond to the urgency and ambition of the European Green Deal objectives, Horizon 2020 will soon launch a European Green Deal call worth close to €1 billion.

The Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan represents the coordination mechanism in energy R&I with EU member countries and associated countries. It is the implementing pillar of the R&I priorities of the Energy Union in the sector of energy. The execution of the R&I priorities in the SET Plan remains highest priority for the coming years and will be managed by Implementation Working Groups (IWGs) set up under the leadership of SET Plan countries.

National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) were developed by EU member countries and submitted to the European Commission. The plans require each Member State to outline its 10-year plans for reducing emissions, increasing the take-up of renewables, improving energy efficiency (including in buildings), raising cross-border infrastructure/ interconnections, ensuring markets are fit for new technologies, and boosting research and innovation. The Commission is now carrying out a thorough assessment of the final NECPs. This analysis is due for publication in the autumn.

Private sector engagement in 2019/20

The EU adopted the Taxonomy Regulation (June 2020) – a key piece of legislation that will contribute to the European Green Deal by boosting private sector investment in green and sustainable projects. This Taxonomy creates the world’s first-ever “green list” – a classification system for sustainable economic activities – that will create a common language investors/banks, industry and researchers can use when investing in projects and economic activities that have a substantial positive impact on the climate and the environment. By enabling investors to re-orient investments towards more sustainable technologies and businesses, this piece of legislation will be instrumental for the EU to become climate neutral by 2050.

In December 2020, EU criteria for economic activities to contribute substantially to climate change mitigation and adaptation will be adopted. The ambition of these criteria and their alignment with the goals of the Paris Agreement will strongly push for clean energy innovation. Moreover, commitments to use the EU taxonomy as guidance under the €1 trillion European Green Deal Investment Plan and the EU Recovery Plan will trigger additional incentives for partnering and collaborating with innovators and private investors in upscaling or early deployment of clean innovative technologies and solutions, as well as increasing private investment in related R&D.

Major activities in support of the Innovation Challenges in 2019/20

IC5 (Converting Sunlight) focused on the launch of internal exchanges towards the establishment of multilateral calls and on the refining of the actions to be effectuated via expert consultations. From the latter, a road mapping action has been initiated and continued in 2020.

IC7 (Heating and Cooling of Buildings) organised two workshops in 2019 and has been working on a number of projects, including the Comfort and Climate Box (Multifunctional devices that integrate varied energy inputs and optimise energy use for desired performance), the COMBIOTES (Compact Bio-Based Thermal Energy Storage for Buildings) and the Global Cooling Prize (the eight finalists were announced and received a $200,000 award to develop two working prototypes).

IC8 (Clean and Renewable Hydrogen) concentrated on the setting up of a hydrogen valleys platform (a “hydrogen valley” is a geographic area – e.g. a city, region, or industrial cluster – where several hydrogen applications are combined into an integrated hydrogen ecosystem). IC8 is developing an online information-sharing platform on hydrogen valley projects in MI countries. Information will be publicly available, but there will also be the possibility for private bilateral exchanges between the hydrogen valley projects on the platform. IC8 members anticipate that the platform will be fully operational by December 2020, with the project finished in June 2021. The project is running on track and data is currently being collected from 44 Hydrogen Valley projects across the MI countries. The EU is initially financing the platform with a €0.5 million contract through its Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking programme.

Other Mission Innovation related activity in 2019/20

The European Commission designed, developed and implemented the Mission Innovation Champions programme – a prize programme for recognizing and supporting innovative individuals who are accelerating the clean energy revolution by working on key clean energy research and technology developments. By supporting cross-border exchanges of ideas and talent, and by building a community of visionaries committed to the promise of clean energy research and development, the program activates and engages a new generation of researchers, inventors and leaders. The first cohort of MI Champions was announced in May 2019. The European Commission continued its leadership of the MI Champions programme by launching a second cohort of MI Champions programme in June 2020.

“The Clean Energy Innovation index” study was launched in 2019 with the objective to develop a composite indicator tracking innovation performance of EU member countries and main trade partners of the EU.

New Collaborations

FCH/OP contract 249: Hydrogen Valleys global collaboration platform
Australia and Germany
Create go to platform for all information on Hydrogen valleys globally. Facilitate information sharing, collaboration, and roll out of new hydrogen projects. Coordinate stakeholder efforts. Demonstrate maturity and added value of integrated Hydrogen Valleys, and raise awareness among policy makers.
Sectors: public and private
Type of collaboration: Collaborative Information platform, showcasing progress in hydrogen valley projects.
Start date: December 2019
End date: March 2021
Funding amount: €0.5 million. The EU pays entire amount.
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COMBIOTES (Compact bio-based thermal energy storage for buildings), a Horizon 2020 project
UK and China
COMBIOTES develops a modular compact thermal energy storage (TES) solution for heating, hot tap water and cooling fully adapted for electricity load shifting. As thermal end-uses in buildings are different regarding seasonal needs, COMBIOTES combines the advantage of a modular TES with the high volumetric energy density of a latent TES.
Sectors: public and private
Type of collaboration: research and development
Start date: November 2019
End date: October 2023
Funding amount: €4.2 million
Find out more