European Union Unveils Plan for Low-Carbon Economy

The European Union has some pretty ambitious goals for energy use and climate change, such as cutting 80% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Today the European Commission unveiled a series of technology road maps that will allow the club of 27 nations to achieve such goals. The price tag: an extra €50 billion over the next 10 years.

That's more than the double current annual spending on energy technology of €3 billion across the European Union. The nonbinding Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) released today acknowledges that the new money can’t all come out of the coffers of the European Union itself, and so calls on national governments and the private sector to step up to the plate.

The SET Plan says that market forces alone will not be sufficient to produce innovative low-carbon technologies fast enough to meet the E.U.’s goals. Hence a new funding partnership between the public and private sectors is needed to carry out basic research, develop technologies, support large scale demonstrations, and ease new technologies into the market. The plan emphasizes seven key areas: wind, solar, electricity grids, bioenergy, carbon capture and storage, sustainable nuclear fission, and fuel cells and hydrogen. In addition, an energy efficiency program would support up to 30 cities in efforts to slash their greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020.

"Up-grading investment in research in clean technologies is urgent if Europe is to make the road to Copenhagen and beyond cheaper,” says Janez Potočnik, E.U. commissioner for science and research. “We have provided the springboard, we measured the height of the pummel horse, and we identified all the gymnasts. I now call member states, companies and researchers to make this ambitious jump.”

The SET Plan now goes before the European Parliament and government representatives in the European Council to gather support.