Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Sustainable energy needs sustainable chemistry

On 19 March Knowledge4Innovation organised a high-level round table meeting at the European Parliament on Europe’s Energy Future. Competitive, secure and sustainable energy is vital for a thriving European economy and the event, hosted by Jerzy Buzek MEP saw keynote speeches from Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger and contributions from Dominique Ristori, Director-general for Energy at the European Commission.  Potential solutions provided by sustainable chemistry were described by SusChem board member Gernot Klotz of Cefic.

In the aftermath of the ambitious European Commission goal-setting for 2030, the meeting addressed the current fragmentation challenges and the potential for innovative technologies in the energy sector to move policy targets to implementation.

Commissioner Oettinger summarised The European Union’s ambitions in energy policy: “Reduced emissions, increased use of renewables, affordable energy prices, increased efficiency, smart integrated networks, smarter use of energy and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 80% by 2050, all in a way that is sustainable and keeps our economy competitive and our supplies secure.”

He emphasised that there was no shortage of ideas in Europe, but that the major challenge was to turn these ideas into “manufacturable” and “marketable” products and services.

SusChem solutions
Gernot Klotz, Executive Director for Research and Innovation at Cefic, took up this point saying that investment in technologies per se was not sufficient.

“It is also about doing things differently at both private and public level,” he said. “On one side, policy makers need to ensure the integration of policy approaches along the value chain – for example using Key Enabling Technologies from process industries towards advanced materials and consumer solutions.. While on the other side, we need to integrate the various instruments – for example European Technology Platforms (like SusChem) and Public Private Partnerships (like the SPIRE PPP) – and other technological advances within a solid, prioritised and viable Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan roadmap for Europe.”

But Klotz (above) also argued that Europe needed to keep its options open and allow for new technological breakthroughs where Europe could capitalise on a competitive advantage – such as the emerging technologies for turning carbon dioxide (CO2) into useful products such as chemicals, materials and fuels.

“It is vital for Europe to seize this opportunity to get global technological leadership,” he continued. “Because CO2 is the only source that Europe has in abundance and global technology leadership would allow us to export to other regions, thus creating jobs and growth.”

Director-General Ristori agreed that there was a requirement to work together across Europe both at industry and private level to gain the critical mass needed for change. Although excellent progress had been made in renewable energy technologies there was still a great challenge to move from world-class research and innovation to viable smart energy solutions.

Innovative technology
The round table participants agreed that key factors for achieving the EU’s ambitious energy goals include a full and productive interaction between policy makers and those able to produce, sell and use innovative products; a strong holistic approach to the energy field; and the creation of strong PPPs to link industry and national and European programmes to invest in future technologies and create a truly smart energy system in Europe.

A common understanding was reached on some important issues: innovation is indispensable for driving a future low-carbon economy; funding has a key role: in terms of energy taxes, CO2 pricing and energy subsidies; energy intensive industries and SMEs need access to affordable energy efficient technologies; the intermittent nature of renewable technologies that needs to be addressed by innovative smart energy storage and grid management solutions; and, above all else, to achieve a long-term, sustainable energy strategy required innovative technology solutions.

Both SusChem and SPIRE have and will continue to contribute chemical and other innovations to the sustainable energy sector and will plat a leading role in developing the new low carbon technologies that Europe and the World needs.

The Knowledge4Innovation Forum will take the main issues discussed forward to future forums and the Sixth European Innovation Summit that will take place in Brussels form 17-20 November 2014.

For more information about the Europe’s Energy Future event, please visit the K4I website.

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