In 2006, recognising the need to transform the process of energy technology innovation in Europe to meet energy and climate challenges, the Commission introduced the concept of a European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan). It was further shaped and proposed as a Community objective in 2007. The original aim of the SET Plan was to put energy technology at the core of European energy policy, and to overhaul the way research and innovation was conducted in the EU, by matching the most appropriate policy instruments and funds at national, European and private levels to the needs of low-carbon technologies at various stages of development and deployment; in effect matching them to the needs of the energy system as a whole. The overall goal was the acceleration of cost reduction and the further development of low-carbon energy technologies to enable the effective decarbonisation of the energy system. To do this, the SET Plan put forward a new model for research and innovation (R&I). It introduced: (i) technology-specific objectives and targets; (ii) a governing structure with Member State and Associated countries representation (the European Community Steering Group on Strategic Energy Technologies, or SET Plan Steering Group for short); (iii) the SET Plan Information System (SETIS), which was assigned to the JRC, to provide regular and reliable information and data to underpin effective strategic planning in the Steering Group; (iv) European Industrial Initiatives (EIIs) to engage industrial stakeholders in each technology addressed by the SET Plan; (v) and the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) that brought together national research institutes in support of SET Plan implementation. The European Council welcomed the SET Plan in 2007 as a means of implementing the European energy policy, recognising the vital role of low-carbon energy technologies in transforming the energy system, and acknowledging the hitherto inadequate support given to research and innovation in this area.
The SET Plan concept has, since then, been further developed. In close cooperation with the participating countries and industrial and academic stakeholders, the Commission made a first attempt in 2009 to assess its financial needs. It produced Roadmaps for the implementation of each of the 7 EIIs, addressing wind, solar, electricity grids, bioenergy, CCS, nuclear fission and fuel cells & hydrogen, which were agreed by the European Council.
Following a review of SET Plan implementation during the period 2010-2012 carried out by the JRC in 2013, the Commission widened the scope of SET Plan to include energy efficiency, system flexibility and the urban environment, and called for an Integrated Roadmap addressing energy system and innovation integration. The Integrated Roadmap, produced under the coordination of the JRC and in collaboration with DGs ENER and RTD along with more than 150 experts, proposed research and innovation actions designed to overcome the challenges of the European energy system while facilitating integration along the innovation chain.
In early 2015, the Energy Union Framework Strategy identified the SET Plan as the new European approach for implementation of its fifth dimension on research, innovation and competitiveness. In response, the SET Plan was updated in September 2015. Its main features include: a more targeted focus on the Energy Union priorities of the fifth dimension; a system integration approach; and more efficient management. These are addressed by the new SET Plan governance that facilitates strengthened cooperation between Member States and with the EU, designed to lead to more joint actions; transparency and the use of monitoring indicators in periodic reporting; and knowledge sharing. Moreover, 10 concrete actions and specific targets have been identified to accelerate the energy system transformation: on renewables; the energy system including solutions for consumers, smart cities and communities and the power grid; energy efficiency in buildings and the industry; sustainable mobility including batteries and alternatives fuels; carbon capture, storage and utilisation; and nuclear safety.
The SET Plan is now transitioning from its traditional planning phase into the actual implementation phase. The focus is placed on the execution of Implementation Plans for achieving the agreed SET Plan targets as well as implementation of the actions. To ensure ongoing success, and further build upon it, the SET Plan maintains the current active involvement and intensive cooperation between Member States, Associated Countries, research organisations and industrial groups. Translating the plans into real and effective projects will require a strong commitment from all stakeholders and although public funding is certainly an important booster of R&I activities, the key player is, and will continue to be, the private sector. For example, the first three endorsed Implementation Plans on Concentrated Solar Power/Solar Thermal Electricity; Carbon Capture Storage and Use (CCUS); and Energy efficiency in industry could mobilise up to €7 billion until 2030 from both public and private sectors. The SET Plan will continue to function as the cornerstone of the transformation of Europe's energy system to a low-carbon, sustainable, smarter energy system for the benefit of European society.
The role of SETIS
The JRC has been deeply involved in the development and implementation of the SET Plan since its inception, in equal partnership with DGs ENER and RTD. The role of the JRC has been two-fold. Firstly, it has contributed to the conception, development and implementation of the SET Plan, and participated in the decision-making process alongside DGs ENER and RTD. Secondly, it has managed and operated the SET Plan Information System (SETIS) which, with robust scientific evidence, information and data, underpins the SET Plan process in general and strategic orientation decisions made by the Steering Group in particular.
The importance of the role played by SETIS has been highlighted by both the Commission and the Council. The 2007 SET Plan Communication4 gave the JRC a mandate to manage and operate SETIS. The 2013 Communication9 called for a robust reporting system based on SETIS to monitor implementation of the SET Plan and to report on progress, drawing on data supplied by the SET Plan countries. The SET Plan’s impact on energy policy objectives could thus be accurately assessed and EU and national support better oriented. Furthermore, the 2015 Communication11 states that the Commission will further strengthen SETIS to ensure a more diligent and intelligent use of available information, data and reporting practices by stakeholders and Member States and Associated countries. It also provides for the development and monitoring of key performance indicators to keep track of progress in the Energy Union’s fifth dimension. In 2008, the Council invited the Commission "to establish as a matter of priority an open-access European energy technology information and knowledge management system"5; and in 2009 called on the Commission “to develop to its full capability the SET Plan Information system (SETIS) in order to provide a robust technology-neutral planning tool, which reflects the current state of the art of the individual technologies and their anticipated technological development and market potential… in a transparent and objective way"7.
SETIS has made the following concrete contributions to the SET Plan:
- Prepared the analytical framework for impact assessments of all SET Plan Communications
- Developed technical annexes to support these Communications, including the Technology Roadmaps for the development of low-carbon energy technologies in 2009.
- Coordinated and provided scientific evidence for the development of the Integrated Roadmap and its annexes.
- Produced biennial publications of the Technology Map, a concise overview of the status and prospects of technologies and their markets ; and annual publications of the Capacities Map, a systematic analysis of R&D investment at EU and national level and in the private sector, for each of the technologies addressed in the SET Plan.
- Provides regular input to the State of the Energy Union Reports, and in particular through indicators that measure progress on the implementation of the fifth dimension on research, innovation and competitiveness.
- Operates the SETIS website, the main platform for disseminating information about implementation of the SET Plan.
- Publishes reports assessing energy technologies of high importance to the transformation of the energy system (e.g. solar, wind, ocean, geothermal, storage).
- Organises and participates in high-level events, such as the annual SET Plan Conferences and side events.
By providing the necessary robust scientific evidence, SETIS will continue to support the implementation and further development of the SET Plan, enabling it to fulfil its role in the completion of the Energy Union.
Dr. Evangelos Tzimas
Deputy Head of the 'Knowledge for the Energy Union' Unit of the Energy, Transport and Climate Directorate of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).
Through his work, Evangelos provides scientific support for the conception, development and assessment of impact of energy and research and innovation policies of the Union. He has been involved in the development and implementation of the SET Plan from the very beginning and has led activities related to the management and operation of SETIS, the SET Plan Information System.
 Towards a European Strategic Energy Technology Plan, COM(2006)847.
 A European Strategic Energy Technology Plan, COM(2007)723.
 Brussels European Council 8/9 March 2007, Presidency Conclusions 7224/07.
 An Energy Policy for Europe, COM(2007)1.
 Investing in the Development of Low Carbon technologies (SET Plan), COM(2009)519.
 Council Conclusions on the Commission Communication "Investing in the Development of Low Carbon technologies (SET Plan)", 3001st Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council Meeting, Brussels, 12 March 2009.
 Review of the SET- Plan Implementation Mechanisms for the period 2010-2012, https://setis.ec.europa.eu/set-plan-process/set-plan-review-2010-2012
 Energy Technologies and Innovation, COM(2013)253.
 Towards an Integrated Roadmap: Research Innovation Challenges and Needs of the EU Energy System, JRC93056.
 Towards an Integrated Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan: Accelerating the European Energy System Transformation, C(2015)6317.