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EERA Weekly Policy Update
Highlights on climate and energy R&I, policy roundup and funding opportunities 

13 September 2021
In this issue:
  • European Commission publishes new Strategic Foresight Report, climate change becomes ‘biggest challenge’
  • Carbon prices in the EU soar, spreading to electricity prices in member states
  • European Commission publishes call for clean energy infrastructure projects
  • 81% of Horizon 2020 papers published in open access
  • Nuclear and gas to be excluded under NextGen EU green bonds
  • Consultations open on the future of green hydrogen and strengthening of Europe’s innovation ecosystem
  • Member states call for greater involvement of universities in ERA governance
  • Zero-Emission Waterborne Transport Partnership releases its Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda
  • World’s largest “direct air capture” plant starts capturing CO2 from air
  • US banks, insurers and asset managers are not divesting from overseas coal assets fast enough
  • New research estimates that fossil fuels extraction must be reduced dramatically if we are to reach 1.5 degrees’ target
     
News
EU Institutions
European Commission publishes new Strategic Foresight Report, climate change becomes ‘biggest challenge’

The Strategic Foresight Reports are a new series of briefs which started being published in 2020 and which are aimed at presenting the Commission’s top priorities for the year to come. The megatrends and policy actions laid out in the 2021 Strategic Foresight Report were identified through an expert-led, cross-sectoral foresight exercise conducted by the European Commission, and this year the agenda revolves around four main themes: climate change and other environmental challenges; digital hyperconnectivity and technological transformation; pressure on democracy and values; and shifts in the global order and demography. Great attention is given to technologies, both current and future ones, particularly in the field of renewable energy, identified as a strategic area of policy action.

Read the report here

Carbon prices in the EU soar, spreading to electricity prices in member states

Last week, carbon prices in the EU rose above €60 per tonne of carbon dioxide for the first time in the history of the Emissions Trading System (ETS). This had an impact on the energy market, with electricity prices rising in the EU and reaching a record €140 per MWh in Spain. The rise was met with disapproval in Poland as well, as companies in the country complain about high prices while the country is still dependent on fossil fuels. Nonetheless, EU officials have claimed that the situation is temporary for the moment, warning however that the trend is likely to keep rising in the coming years, pushed by the new ETS reform and the green objectives of the EU Commission.
Read more here

European Commission publishes call for clean energy infrastructure projects

The European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) has published the first call under the Connecting Europe Facility Energy programme for the period 2021-2027 – the European support programme for trans-European infrastructure. The new call for proposals for key cross-border EU energy infrastructure projects is included in the 4th Union list of Projects of Common Interest (PCIs), to be co-financed through grants worth 785 million EUR from the EU budget. The call addresses studies and works for PCIs in the field of trans-European energy infrastructure and will be open until 19th October 2021. The final decision is likely to be taken in early 2022.

Read more here

81% of Horizon 2020 papers published in open access

Open access to scientific publications financed by Horizon 2020 has been a real success, according to a report by the European Commission. It concludes that 86% of publications based on projects funded through the excellent science pillar in Horizon 2020 were published in open access journals or repositories. Indeed, 95% of researchers complied with Horizon 2020 requirements, although only 39% of deposited datasets are findable, with the remainder not including reliable metadate to track them down. In turn, only 32% of deposited datasets are easily accessible via a link in the metadata. In addition, the report revealed some other inefficiencies, such as a need to finance article processing charges (APCs) after the project ended, or a lack of awareness on the part of beneficiaries regarding open access requirements. In the future, open access requirements will remain in place under Horizon Europe funded research, though, APCs for hybrid journal (i.e. journals that both sell subscriptions and offer the option of making individual articles openly accessible) will no longer be reimbursed.  

Read more here

Nuclear and gas to be excluded under NextGen EU green bonds

The European Commission is expected to start issuing green bonds, to finance its recovery fund “Next Generation EU”. According to officials, green bonds will cover 30% of the €800 billion issued for the recovery fund. However, a framework proposed by the Commission excludes gas and nuclear projects to beneficiate from such bonds. Given a stand-still on the EU taxonomy negotiations, the Commission based its decision on the International Capital Market Association’s green bond principle, which will be valid for the six-year period of NextGen EU.  Nuclear and gas projects could still be eligible for funding under NextGen EU, to transit to lower carbon economy, but will be financed by standard bonds. Thus, this will make other sources of energy funded by green bonds more attractive, thereby, hindering gas and nuclear becoming part of the EU taxonomy.

Read more here

Consultations open on the future of green hydrogen and strengthening of Europe’s innovation ecosystem

The European Commission launched on last 7 September a public consultation on hydrogen as a new step in the ‘Agenda Process on Green Hydrogen’, a pilot initiative of the European Research Area (ERA) that brings together scientists, industry, civil society and public administration to define a common ‘Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda’ (SRIA) on green hydrogen by the end of the year. The survey takes about 30 min to be filled in and is open until September 26.

It is accessible here

The European Commission is also running a consultation to gather views on challenges faced by European innovation ecosystem actors, their future opportunities and expectations. The input will feed into ongoing analysis and reflections of the evolution of the European innovation ecosystems, including in terms of funding programming via the European Innovation Ecosystems (EIE), European Innovation Council and Cohesion Policy programmes and actions. The survey takes about 20 min to be filled in and is open until 15 September.

Please access it  here

Member states call for greater involvement of universities in ERA governance

Member states (MSs) and the Slovenian presidency of the European Council are pushing for a stronger involvement of universities and research organisations in the advisory group governing the implementation of the European Research Area (ERA) governance. Such a group is tasked with overseeing ERA's delivery on, for instance, guaranteeing that MSs are efficiently harmonising their research landscapes. Another topic of crucial importance for the success of the ERA is ensuring that MSs will respect the commitment to increase their national research funding to 3% of GDP during the next decade – a goal which is, however, not binding. Last week, the Slovenian presidency held a workshop on ERA governance addressed to a wide range of stakeholders. The aim was to set the foundations for an inclusive governance system ensuring efficient resource spending and dialogue among parties.

Read more here
Sector-specific news

Zero-Emission Waterborne Transport Partnership releases its Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda

The Zero-Emission Waterborne Transport Partnership, one of the new Horizon Europe partnership proposals, has released a Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) to describe how it will provide and demonstrate zero-emission solutions for all main ship types and services before 2030 through seven operational objectives. The SRIA describes six parallel activities that will be active in the coming years: use of sustainable alternative fuels, electrification, energy efficiency, design and retrofitting, digital green, and ports. Examples of lower TRL activities include proving the feasibility and safety of emerging, less market ready, alternative fuels such as ammonia, whilst higher TRL “quick wins’’ could include solutions which substantially improve energy efficiency.

Read more here
 

International Energy News

World’s largest “direct air capture” plant starts capturing CO2 from air

Last week the largest direct carbon capture (CC) plant became operative. The facility, developed by the Swiss start-up Climeworks AG in Iceland, will collect 4000 tons of carbon dioxide out of the air every year and store it underground. Although being a minor achievement compared to the 33 billion tons of CO2 that will be emitted during this year based on IEA’s estimates – and despite its high construction and operative costs – such an achievement yet testifies the technology's viability. The investment necessary to develop the plant was between USD 10 and 15 million. It has been backed by a group of private investors and received debt financing commitments from Microsoft Corp.’s climate innovation fund. The critics of direct CC argue that this technology is too expensive and will take too long to operate at scale. Nonetheless, more ambitious projects are underway, such as a plant that Carbon Engineering will develop in Texas with the aim to extract up to 1 million tons of CO2 a year.

Read more here, here and here

US banks, insurers and asset managers are not divesting from overseas coal assets fast enough

American institutional investors are responsible for 58% of the international investments in the overseas coal industry, shows the Energy Monitor’s Portal Weekly data based on research from German non-profit environmental and human rights group Urgewald. China is the largest public financier of coal plants across the world. The top ten investors of the global coal industry are Chinese financial institutions such as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and the Bank of China. Yet, 87% of public and private funding for overseas coal projects comes from non-Chinese entities, more than half of which comes from the US. When it comes to coal investment and divestment, it is very important to separate between public and private investors. According to the Boston University Global Development Policy Center, public finance only accounts for 3.4% which means that the private sector is the engine behind coal plants in the world. In this context, G7’s pledge to end international public financing of unabated coal by the end of 2021 will not change much in terms of meeting climate targets faster if large private institutional investors do not divest. Currently, investment portfolios of most private investors are not aligned with the national and international emissions reduction goals. If there is to be a genuine coal phase-out, divestment will have to happen much faster.

Read more here

New research estimates that fossil fuels extraction must be reduced dramatically if we are to reach 1.5 degrees’ target

A new publication in Nature by a group of researchers from the University College London provides the results of a climate simulation model showing that in order to hold global warming at 1.5°C, nearly 60% of global oil and fossil gas reserves will need to remain in the ground in 2050. Almost all of the world’s coal – 90% – will need to be spared from factory and power plant furnaces. The analysis also showed that global oil and gas production must peak immediately and fall by 3% each year until 2050. This research is also in line with the IEA Net-Zero report published earlier this year which calls for stopping all fossil fuels’ extraction urgently. Currently, fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are the source of over 80% of the world’s energy. Burning them accounts for 89% of human-derived CO₂ emissions. To avert catastrophic climate impact, the global community must rapidly reduce how much of these fuels it extracts and burns. The new research revealed just how tight the world’s remaining carbon budget is likely to be.

Read more here and here
 

EU Institutional Agenda
Council of the EU
Working Party on the Environment,
14-15-16-17 September
Agenda available here
  • ETS reform
  • CO2 emission performance standards for cars and commercial vehicles
  • Aarhus Convention
  • Preparation for COP26
  • New EU Forest Strategy
Working Party on International Environment Issues,
15 September
Agenda available here
Working Party on Energy,
16 September
Agenda not available yet
Working Party on Research,
16 September
Agenda available here
  • Third countries association to Horizon Europe
  • Joint Undertakings under Horizon Europe
Working Party on International Environment Issues,
17 September
Agenda not available yet
Working Party on Research,
20 September
Agenda not available yet
Working Party on the Environment,
20 September
Agenda not available yet
EERA Events 
#Nuclear Materials

Second Workshop Energy Materials for Innovation (EM4I) Workshop Series – From Lab to Engineering

Time: 13:00-16:00
Location: Online

Information & registration: click here

The second Workshop of the EM4I series, together with the Joint Programme on Nuclear Materials and the Joint Programme on Digitalisation for Energy, will focus on “How to bring innovative ideas and products from the lab to the engineering scale?”, which is a crucial step of the transition to a future sustainable energy system. Various examples of recent up-scaling cases, covering different technologies and materials will be presented during the workshop.
#Smart Cities

Beyond technology: The Clean Energy Transition for climate-neutral, smart, and beautiful cities

Time: 13:00-15:00 
Location: Online
Information & registration: click here


Cities are central in driving the Clean Energy Transition. This event aims to tackle from a cross-cutting perspective the transition challenge that developing climate-neutral, smart, and beautiful cities entails as a key building block towards making the whole of EU climate-neutral. The session aims at making the case for the need to develop transdisciplinary innovation capabilities and incorporate bottom-up approaches as the path to deliver the CET in cities.
#EERA 

The Clean Energy Transition: From Vision to Reality 

Time: 09:00-12:30 
Location: Brussels & Online
Information & registration: click here


Join us in this EERA event, featuring high-level discussions and invited speakers from the EU institutions and Member States/Associated Countries, leading international organisations (e.g., UN IPCC, IEA, IRENA), and prominent research institutions in Europe. The event, conducted in a hybrid mode, will mark the launch of the EERA White Paper offering our overview of the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead as we drive the Clean Energy Transition and make it a reality for the EU and its citizens. 
#Nuclear Materials 

First ORIENT-NM Workshop

Time: 13:00-16:00
Location: tbc
Information & registration: click here


This event is the first step of the open dialogue of the nuclear materials research community with all the relevant stakeholders. The objective will be to discuss the opportunity to develop a potential European partnership on nuclear materials and to progress towards reaching a consensus on its goal and impact.
External Events
#Cities

Positive Energy Districts as Innovation Ecosystems for climate-neutrality

Time: 16:30-18:00
Location: Online
Information & registration: click here

In this Participatory Lab, four cities from across Europe share with you how they are implementing the European Commission’s Mission on Climate-neutral cities. Learn what works, what challenges they face and what impact they are achieving.
 

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