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Setting the course for efficient energy utilisation
On 19 March, around 120 delegates attended the international conference on "Energy Research in Europe: Germany’s Contribution to the SET-Plan", which was concerned with improving cooperation in the research, development and demonstration fields within the energy sector. The need for research and action was discussed in the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) using the example of smart grids and the hydrogen industry.
The intelligent linking of electricity generators with loads in smart grids offers new prospects for both the energy sector and consumers, while the additional integration of the hydrogen sector will enable the gas network to be used as a storage system for balancing our production and consumption fluctuations in the electricity grid. The challenges for the researchers are diverse: for example, possible cooperation projects were discussed concerning wind and bio-energy, smart grids, smart cities, energy storage, flexible power plants and new materials for the energy sector.
In 2008, the European Council adopted the "European Strategic Energy Technology Plan" – known as the SET-Plan, which offers diverse possibilities for joint research and development. As an important element of the European Union’s energy and climate policy, the SET-Plan intends to reduce the costs of highly efficient and low-emission energy technologies and thus ensure that European companies will also play a worldwide leading role in this rapidly growing sector in the future.
Dr. Knut Kübler, Head of the Energy Research Department at the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, emphasised the importance of coordinated energy research for Europe and highlighted the German government’s 6th Energy Research Programme (EFP). The programme promotes not just energy efficiency and renewable energies but also international cooperation, whereby the EFP is closely dovetailed internationally with the energy polices of the European Union (EU).
A plan for a joint objective
The SET-Plan is a European strategic plan for energy technologies, which, with the aim of achieving a low carbon future, intends to strengthen application-related energy research. National research centres from the Member States are working together in various initiatives with a focus on renewable energies, grids as well as carbon capturing and storage (CCS). The European Commission's Directorate-General for Energy provided an overview of the experience gained so far with the SET-Plan and its objectives. Interdisciplinary research and development work is being funded on the efficient and climate-friendly energy industry of the future. By 2013, a total of around 7 billion euros will be deployed for research purposes. By 2050, the aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95 per cent – while simultaneously taking into consideration the goals of competitiveness and supply security.
The speakers made it clear that the joint objective of the SET-Plan is faced with very different underlying conditions in the various countries: in terms of energy supplies, the supply structure and user behaviour. For this reason it is necessary to adapt measures in order to achieve the goals. The Danish approach envisages the expansion of wind energy for supplying electricity from 25 per cent at the moment to 50 per cent.
Summarising the future tasks, Marie Donnelly from the European Commission said that the challenge lies in combining old and new energies, adapting grids and tackling storage as a new technological issue for the market.