The Energy Union framework strategy, COM(2015)80, has called for an integrated governance and monitoring process to ensure that energy-related actions at all levels, from European to local, contribute to the Energy Union’s objectives. This, inter alia, includes improved data collection, analysis and intelligence mechanisms that pool the relevant knowledge and make it easily accessible to all stakeholders; and an annual reporting on the state of the Energy Union to address key issues and steer the policy debate. Furthermore, in its Communication ‘Towards an Integrated Strategic Energy technology (SET) Plan: Accelerating the European energy system transformation’, COM(2015)6317, the European Commission proposed to develop a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) in order to measure progress in research and innovation (R&I) in Europe. This task was assigned to SETIS, the Strategic Energy Technologies Information System. SETIS manages and operates the monitoring and reporting scheme that supports the implementation and continuous development of the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan), through a more diligent and intelligent use of available information, data and reporting practices by stakeholders and Member States.
The JRC SETIS R&I team monitors and reports two relevant KPIs that have been identified in the Integrated SET-Plan Communication and have been included in the first, SWD(2015)243 and second, SWD(2017) 32, State of the Energy Union reports:
- the level of investment in Research and Innovation in terms of both private (expenditure by businesses and industry) and public (Member States’ national programmes and instruments) investments;
- trends in patents in the relevant technologies.
These indicators are produced with various degrees of geographical and thematic aggregation. Figure 1 shows the links between the Energy Union R&I and Competitiveness priorities, the 10 SET-Plan actions and the SET-Plan Integrated Roadmap. These define the levels of reporting addressed by JRC SETIS. For example, figures can be computed at Member State, EU or global level and addressing the Energy Union priority of becoming No 1 in Renewables, the corresponding SET-Plan Action for performant, low-cost renewables, or a particular technology such as wind energy.
Source: Transforming the European Energy System through INNOVATION
Figure 1: The Integrated SET-Plan Structure, representing the links between the Energy Union R&I and Competitiveness priorities, the SET-Plan Integrated Roadmap and the 10 SET-Plan Actions.
As already mentioned, the resulting indicators provide input to the Annual State of the Energy Union Report, the SET-Plan implementation, where SETIS reports as required in agreement and collaboration with the Member States, and briefings and working documents on EU Energy Research and Innovation.
Monitoring of research and innovation efforts in the field of energy in general and low-carbon technologies in particular is made difficult by a lack of data. Relevant statistics tend to have a two to four year delay and may be differ in how they are thematically organised. This provides additional challenges and introduces an interesting debate about the use of best estimates for policy support.
In order to make the work of SETIS on these KPIs fully transparent, with regards to both data and methodology, JRC SETIS has recently published the JRC Science for Policy Report “Monitoring R&I in Low-Carbon Energy Technologies”. The report provides the necessary theoretical background and addresses key conceptual and operational points that are important for the interpretation and use of these results in the policy debate, such as the timing of data availability, information sources, methodological caveats etc. This allows stakeholders to review both the methodology used and the outcome, and it is also meant to trigger feedback to the JRC that will lead to the further improvement of data collection, processing and evaluation mechanisms. The main sources of data, as further analysed in the report are:
- Public R&I investment data from the International Energy Agency RD&D statistics, supplemented by feedback from the Member States through the SET-Plan Steering Group and/or through targeted data mining by JRC SETIS.
- Private R&I investments that are calculated by JRC SETIS using patent statistics and published financial company statements, using a methodology developed by the JRC.
- Patent statistics that are also constructed by JRC SETIS using the Worldwide Patent Statistical Database created and maintained by the European Patent Office (EPO) as a source, and following the in-house methodology for data clean-up and processing.
A summary of first messages from the monitoring of the above indicators as well as some sample graphs (Figure 3 - Figure 5) are provided in this article. More extensive analysis covering the full spectrum of Energy Union R&I priorities, SET-Plan Actions and technological areas, as well as a summary of RIC indicators per Member State can be found in the forthcoming JRC Science for Policy Report “R&I financing and patenting trends in the EU”.
Figure 3: Relative share of national R&I investments in Energy Union R&I priorities for the EU and major economies.
Messages for EU Energy Research and Innovation
- In the EU, public R&I investment at national level has decreased slightly both in absolute terms and as a share of the GDP.
- Apart from an increase in the focus of national programmes towards a smart energy system (the only topic where national investment has increased), the allocation of national funds across the priorities has remained relatively stable in the EU relative to other developed economies. For example, in USA and Japan the shift in focus has been more pronounced.
- The share of national R&I investments in Energy (excluding European Union funding) in the total public R&D spending at EU level is half of that of the USA and Japan.
- Investments by the private sector have been increasing, and are the driving force behind research and innovation in most Energy topics. Private investment has provided over three quarters of the total R&I budget over the last few years, with a continuously increasing contribution.
- The sustainable transport sector draws the majority of the private investments in Energy Union R&I priorities – over 40 % in recent years. As private investment forms the majority of the total R&I budget, the same sector also receives the highest share of total funding. Renewables, smart system and efficient systems follow on a par.
- Renewables and nuclear safety are the two areas where private – and as a consequence total – R&I investments have decreased.
- There has been a significant increase in patenting activity worldwide. EU efforts have increased at the same rate as those of Japan, the USA and South Korea. However China has emerged as the global leader in patent applications.
- The EU had been leading in number of patents in certain areas of renewable energy but trends show that it is about to lose this advantage to China.
- Sustainable transport is the R&I priority with the highest number of patents filed per year and the Energy Union priority with the highest rate of increase in patenting activity.
Figure 4: Relative share EU total R&I investment in Energy Union R&I priorities.
Figure 5: EU Patenting trends in the Energy Union R&I priorities.
A Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward- Looking Climate change Policy, COM(2015) 80 final, Brussels, 25.02.2015
International Energy Agency RD&D Online Data Service and IEA Guide to Reporting Energy RD&D Budget/ Expenditure Statistics. Paris: International Energy Agency.
Monitoring R&I in Low-Carbon Energy Technologies, EUR 28446 EN, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2017, doi:10.2760/434051
Second Report on the State of the Energy Union, Staff Working Document: Monitoring progress towards the Energy Union objectives – key indicators, SWD(2017) 32 final, Brussels, 1.2.2017
State of the Energy Union, Commission staff working document: Monitoring progress towards the Energy Union objectives - Concept and first analysis of key indicators, SWD(2015) 243 final. Brussels, 18.11.2015
Towards an Integrated Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan: Accelerating the European Energy System Transformation, COM(2015) 6317 final, Brussels, 15.09.2015
Transforming the European Energy System through INNOVATION, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2016, doi:10.2833/45248