With the all-inclusive and future oriented Clean Energy for All Europeans, our journey to decarbonisation has taken a giant step forward - tapping into energy savings that are positive for consumers and the economy; setting the right conditions for clean renewable energies to thrive; and improving market integration and competition, whilst reinforcing investment signals and empowering consumers in electricity markets.
As the transition to a clean and sustainable energy system becomes a real economic option due to the falling costs of renewables, and as heating and transport move towards electricity as the energy vector, electricity markets are being challenged by the need to decarbonise…quickly. The starting point for an electricity market dominated by variable renewables and adaptable demand is to reward flexibility, bringing tangible benefits to EU consumers by allowing active, remunerated participation in generation and demand-response and building on integrated short-term markets as well as EU-wide intraday and cross-border balancing markets.
To achieve this it is essential to remove roadblocks to innovation in order to enable the entrepreneurial development of new energy services for consumers and industry and to open the door to non-traditional actors to the market with new business models.
To be successful, this transition must be all embracing, transparent and mobilise all actors, including consumers, cooperatives, investors, businesses, academia, as well as cities and regions. The new governance framework for 2030 underpins the relationships between these actors and supports the achievement of renewable energy, energy efficiency and carbon reduction objectives. Within this the National Energy and Climate Plan encapsulates the move to an integrated approach to all energy services, to longer-term planning and the routine assessment of progress.
The SET Plan is in many ways the forerunner of this governance process. Already the Steering Group has established an integrated approach to the energy system, within which priorities have been identified and targets to accelerate the energy transformation have been set. This has been successfully achieved through a transparent and wide reaching participation of industry and academia and consumers. This experience is invaluable as all Member States move forward with their national plans and it is essential that the research community share this experience within their Member State.
However, there are still important challenges remaining.
The impact of technological interventions on individual people, communities and the environment needs to be inherent in research. Equally the social consequences of the technological applications or dissemination of innovative services needs to be considered as an integral part of the innovation process.
Public mistrust of science and fear of technology exists today making it incumbent on the research community to reflect on communication at local level in terms that are pertinent to people’s everyday lives. In this respect, the research community has an important outreach obligation.
The challenges of the energy transition can be solved only by taking long-term, large-scale and integrated approach to the energy system. Our research and innovation needs to be more multidisciplinary and its practitioners need to continue to promote cooperation and integration between the social and natural sciences. A holistic approach also demands that science draw on the contributions of local knowledge, micro systems, economic and cost parameters as well as the wide variety of cultural values that exist in Europe.
Hence the shareholders in SET Plan – steering group, European Technology and Innovation Platforms and the European Energy Research Alliance have a collective responsibility to explain to the public and policy makers alike what the value of their innovation means, how it enhances people’s lives and the economy, what the costs are (financial social and environmental) and perhaps most importantly, why new technologies can deliver gains for society.
The success of the decarbonisation agenda and the achievement of the goals for 2030, can only come about with such a multi-layer governance, based on full transparency and participation as a pre-condition to build a large societal consensus around climate change and the energy transition.
Marie C. Donnelly B.Sc. Pharm., M.P.S.I., M.B.A.
Former Director of the European Commission in charge of renewables, research and innovation and energy efficiency within DG ENER
Throughout her thirty year career in the European Commission, Marie has been a leading advocate of future oriented policies and strategies – most recently to accelerate the energy transition.
As the Director for Renewables, Energy Efficiency and Innovation, at DG Energy in the European Commission, she formulated key elements of the ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ package designed to put energy efficiency first, achieve global leadership in renewable energies and provide a fair deal for consumers.
Earlier roles involved framing an overarching policy for the Pharmaceutical industry including Good Clinical Practice and the establishment of the European Medicines Agency, currently located in London; and policy responses particularly for business and employee adaptation to change stemming from globalisation and technological innovation.
Marie is currently a member of the Governance Committee of MaREI, the marine and renewable energy research, development and innovation Centre supported by Science Foundation Ireland and coordinated by the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at University College Cork. She is also serving on the Steering Committee of the International Energy Research Centre (IERC), a state of the art facility established to implement new science in the energy space and hosted at the Tyndall Institute.
As a European Advisory Board Member of the Hawthorn Club, the only International Network for professional women in the energy industry, Marie advances the appointment of women to senior positions and mainstreams gender equality, with an emphasis that equality is for both women and men.