Source: European Commission
Mr. Potočnik, in 2007, together with your fellow Commissioner, Mr. Piebalgs, you created the SET Plan to meet the 2020 energy and climate targets and the 2050 vision by putting energy technology innovation at the heart of energy policy. What were the drivers that made you focus on technology innovation back then? What were your expectations of the SET Plan?
Climate change is one of the main challenges faced by humanity in this century. Addressing it from all possible angles is a necessity. As you know, ten years ago I was responsible for science and research. I have always seen technology and innovation as indispensable ingredients in the fight against climate change. I was also very happy that along with Andris (Piebalgs), we submitted a successful joint proposal. The silo approach was always a reality in the European Commission, as it is in all governments, and an active policy against it in our interconnected and complex reality is an important way to contribute to the solutions needed.
Finding the best options for energy technologies in the transition to a carbon-free energy sector was, and still is, quite a challenge. Joining forces at European level was, from my side, the best option for delivering solutions more quickly and with a higher possibility of success. This was also seen as the best option to secure potential leadership and competitiveness in the not so easy economic times we were facing a decade ago.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the SET Plan. Looking back, can you share with us your opinion on progress made?
After science and research, I was made responsible for the environment. The SET Plan ceased to be one of my direct concerns and responsibilities, and I have not followed it closely enough to be able to judge the progress made.
Based on your long-lasting engagement with European policy affairs, what is your view of the commitment of SET Plan countries to the implementation of a joint research and innovation agenda, as foreseen in the Energy Union? In your view, what is the next major challenge that the SET Plan should address to help the European Union to meet its energy and climate goals?
As mentioned, I’m not aware of the level of commitment of SET Plan countries to the implementation of a research and innovation agenda as foreseen in the Energy Union. The higher it is, and the deeper the level of cooperation, the better the chance of success. We know that we are not yet there when it comes to energy technology solutions. It is important that other resources (materials, land, water), and not only carbon, should be integrated into analysis of technology options, to provide long-term feasibility and sustainability in energy production.
Energy technologies are not the only solution, but they are certainly an important part of the solution to meet the energy and climate goals.
I’m currently a partner in SYSTEMIQ, a company with one aim, to help foster and scale the changes needed in our economic system to make it sustainable – economically, socially and environmentally. One of our recent activities was also related to the Energy Transition Commission (ETC), which resulted in an interesting report addressing energy transition questions.
Former Commissioner responsible for the environment and for science and research.
Dr Janez Potočnik (1958) graduated from the Faculty of Economics at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia (Ph.D. degree 1993) . He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science by London Imperial College and by Ghent University in 2008 and 2009 respectively, and Doctor of Science in Economics and Business Administration by Finland Aalto University in 2016. After a successful career starting in 1989 in Slovenia as a researcher at the Institute of Economic Research, Director of the Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development (1994). He was appointed Head of Negotiating Team for Accession of Slovenia to the EU (1998). He was also Director of Government Office for European Affairs (2000), Minister Councillor at the Office of the Prime Minister (2001) and Minister responsible for European Affairs (2002). In 2004 he joined the European Commission, first as "shadow Commissioner for Enlargement and then as Commissioner responsible for Science and Research. In 2010 Dr Potočnik became Commissioner for Environment. His term ended on November the 1st 2014. In November 2014 he was appointed for a three-year term as a member and Co-Chair of International resource Panel hosted by United Nations Environment Programme. In the same month he was also appointed as a Chairman of The Forum for the Future of Agriculture and RISE Foundation and a Member of the European Policy Centre's Advisory Council.