Tuula Savola: Networking for the energy revolution - What will be Europe's focus in 2016–2017?

The EU will invest over 1.3 billion euros in solving future energy challenges through its Horizon 2020 funding programme over the next two years. More than half of this will be targeted at research and pilot projects enabling the shift to energy systems that emphasise renewable energy sources. Investments will also be made in energy efficiency, as well as in demonstrations of smart urban areas. A common feature of the solutions being sought lies in incentivising the creation of top-level European research and business networks.

Renewable energy systems and energy efficiency as a challenge for Europe

Integrating cost-competitive renewable energy solutions with existing energy system is one of Europe's key future energy challenges. The increase in weather-dependent energy production (based on e.g. the sun and wind) requires that other parts of the energy system balance energy production through methods such as flexible demand and energy storage, or through other flexible energy production methods. At the same time, the operating model of the entire energy system is changing. On the other hand, challenges lie in attempts to increase energy efficiency and consumer engagement in such solutions. We also need new models in order to implement the energy efficiency investments that often benefit numerous parties.

In 2016–2017, the Horizon 2020 programme will invest more than 350 million euros a year in research and demonstrations related to low-carbon energy solutions. The purpose of this is to find solutions to the challenges involved in energy systems, such as the flexibility of demand, storage, and smart and integrated energy systems, as well as the utilisation of ICT in increasing the flexibility of energy systems. Furthermore, new opportunities are being sought for the use of various energy forms, including solar energy, wind and wave power.

Major investments are being made in biofuels, in which Finnish and other European players have strong expertise. In particular, a total of 50 million euros will be invested in the commercialisation of next-generation biofuels, and 25 million euros in the development of biofuels for aviation. The Horizon 2020 programme is prepared to allocate approximately 100 million euros a year to solutions improving energy efficiency, one of the focus areas being the engagement of consumers in such solutions.

Solutions to market

The aim is to accelerate the time-to-market of solutions. It is possible to apply for a risk loan from the European Investment Bank for the first commercial-scale projects demonstrating new technology in the field of renewable energy. Furthermore, special funding is being targeted at SMEs in order to accelerate their business growth and the commercialisation of their solutions. This funding could also be targeted at SMEs seeking new growth in the energy sector.

Join the best networks in Europe!

Competition for Horizon 2020 funding is intense. The main emphasis of funding is on the European-level impact of the project, as well as the creation of wide and varied networks of European operators. Each project can involve only a very limited number of participants from an individual member state. Thus, EU funding will not replace national cooperation projects but, at best, provide the opportunity to attract international partners to invest in a solution to a common challenge. In the best-case scenario, the new partnerships provided by a network could open doors to negotiations with new international customers. Regardless of the financing actually received, creating a new network around an EU funding application may bring far-ranging benefits. What kind of master network do you need for your energy solution?

Text: Tuula Savola
Photo: Susanna Lehto

For further information, please contact:

Tuula Savola
National Contact Person & Expert Member of the Energy Committee, Horizon 2020 Energy
Tel. +358 50 557 7667

Jussi Mäkelä
National Contact Person & Expert Member of the Energy Committee, Horizon 2020 Energy
Tel. +358 50 395 5166

Pia Salokoski
Member of the Energy Committee, Horizon 2020 Energy
Tel. +358 50 5577 672

Sanna Nuutila
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