SET Plan Financing Communication misses opportunity to call for increase in EU energy R&D budget
For a time, it looked like the Commission would ask the Member States to “agree, in the mid-term review of the EU budget (2011-2013), to dedicate additional funding to the support of the SET Plan”, but this aspiration failed to survive into the final version of the Communication released today.The EC should have challenged the Member States on this point. Theurgency with which we need to bring new technology to the marketrequires greater interaction between Europe’s R&D centres andbetween R&D centres and industry, which EU-level funding can helpto stimulate.
A proposal originating in the European Parliament to spend left-over budget in the European Energy Programme for Recovery on spreading technology for energy-efficient living in Europe’s urban centres should also have been taken up by the EC in the Communication.
In the context of the discussion between the Commission and the Member States on the extent of their involvement in the selection of projects for “NER300″ (an instrument created in the revised Emissions Trading Scheme for funding installations of innovative renewable energy technology and carbon capture and storage), it would have been helpful to see the argument for EU-level decision-making on energy technology put forward more strongly. NER300 will be a more effective instrument if the choices on what installations to fund and where to put them are made in a highly co-ordinated fashion.
But these omissions do not eclipse other features of the document that are very useful:
- the quantification of the additional R&D resources needed by different energy technologies over the next decade, which will help those controlling public budgets decide how much to set aside for them;
- the willingness to explore new financing models for large demonstration projects (for example using loans, loan guarantees and equity stakes from the MarguÃ©rite Fund alongside the Framework Programme’s traditional grants), and to extend existing schemes like the Risk-Sharing Finance Facility.
- the changing role of the Framework Programme, which, it is implied, will evolve towards an instrument for “high risk, high cost, long-term programmes beyond the reach of individual Member States”. Given that the renewable energy industry is increasingly able by itself to fund R&D that will yield results that can be commercialised in short term and that European Industrial Initiatives are likely to become the locus of demonstration projects with tailor-made funding packages, this seems like a logical progression for the Framework Programme.