Executive Summary


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European Energy Research portfolio State and Prospects of European Energy Research

This work is an attempt to map and compare the publicly funded research efforts carried out by the EC and Member States in the EU and those undertaken in the US and in Japan.

Because of the resources available to the project it does not pretend to present an exhaustive picture of the situation in each of these countries but provides a number of interesting findings shedding a light on the various research agendas and the coordination and links (or absence of) between those agenda, including promising areas for collaboration, both at European and International levels.

The figures presented in the tables below correspond to (civilian) public funding only and do not include private funding figures. Therefore an important part of the question is not dealt with. In particular, neither direct support to industry research through contracts given by national administrations is not taken into account, nor are efforts carried by industry on their own funds.

The analysis has been broken down following traditional energy research fields (Hydrogen and fuel cells, CO2 capture and storage, Photovoltaics, Concentrated Solar thermal, Wind Energy, Ocean systems, Bio energy, Geo Thermal Energy). A number of global remarks, findings, and questions come up from this study. (i.e. mainly US and Japan) albeit with diverse effectiveness.

European Public Research effort as a whole is important in financial terms when compared to its close competitors (i.e. mainly US and Japan) albeit with diverse effectiveness.

With the limitations expressed above, Europe as a whole (European Commission and its Member states) puts o more public resources in non nuclear energy research than its competitors, especially in the area of renewable energies.

This situation can look paradoxical at a time when the US have been overtaking the EU in the gas turbine business, Japan is in the process of doing the same in the PV area and in the fuel cell domain where most of the industrial advances appear to be carried out in the US.

The research scope appears very wide and multi faceted, however. This is mainly linked to the fragmented nature of European research, the wide difference of cultures and national circumstances between Member states and the institutional nature of the European Union.

An important part of the research funded at EC level (approximately from 15% to 25% depending on the themes)

Although the EC framework Programme represents a relatively large share of European Energy Research it is far to have the size to achieve the structuring effect that has been reached in an area such as nuclear fusion where Europe is the leading force in the world. It cannot have the same impact on the research scene as the DOE research programme and infrastructure funding has.

Furthermore, because of the nature of the process leading to the definition of the various themes, it has to accommodate the various requests made by Member States through the council of by the parliament. Its resources are therefore spread over a very large range of themes. This clearly appears through the wide schemes of issues dealt with.

The most important part is funded by Member States.

This is in particular the case for CO2 capture and sequestration where efforts carried out by three major Member States and Norway are each superior or at least at the level the ones carried out at EC level, while each of them is still not sufficient to engage in demonstration projects such as the Futuregen project supported by the DOE with a budget of 1 billion dollars

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.. On the one hand

This situation gives more flexibility to "centralised" systems. The US and Japan can more easily prioritise their programmes and ruthlessly cut activities in areas which do not appear as having a future such as geothermal and ocean energy for Japan. In the Bio energy area the US heavily focuses on a limited number of subjects such as Feedstock Interfaces, sugar Platform, Termochemical Platform, Products and Integrated Biorefineries with a research budget which is not very far from the global EU budget (leaving aside co firing, however). The chances of success of these research topics therefore appear important while the European choices appear "random".

In addition they can better coordinate at National levels their activities between various agencies. Coordinated efforts between the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture in the biomass sector are one example

In the biomass sector, aside from the European Commission which carries out an important research efforts the most active countries are Finland, Netherlands and Sweden. However each country develops its own technology leading a very much fragmented research area, potentially leading to sub criticality.

Areas where large investments are necessary (CO2 capture and sequestration) might also benefit from a more coordinated central approach.

.. On the other hand

Europe has a wider range of Technologies/opportunities which are best suited to various regional/local circumstances. In addition to "mainstream" research in the fields of Hydrogen and fuel cells, bio energy, clean coal, Photovoltaic, Europe as a whole funds a wide range of technologies including wind energy, geothermal, solar thermal, ocean energy, all technologies which are not funded

This policy has paid out for wind technologies where efforts of a limited number of countries including "small" countries aside from Germany such as Denmark, Netherlands, complemented by EC have handsomely paid off with EU industry taking the lead in the world. A similar approach with support mainly provided by another limited number of countries (UK, Denmark and Portugal) in Ocean energy could have the potential to yield similar results to wind.

However, apart from wind where industry has definitely taken the lead following its economical success, most of the "minor" technologies (solar thermal, geo thermal, ocean energy, etc..) have still to materialise in terms of business success and significant contributors to the energy mix.

The role of the EC

Within this very much diversified picture one can wonder what should be the role of the EC and in particular its Research and Development Framework Programme.

Compared to a DOE civilian research budget of around 3.5 billion dollars a year it is clear the EC cannot have as proactive a role in making strategic choices and in implementing them as the DOE can have. It is therefore important to draw the lessons to be drawn of this situation with respect to the role of the Commission in fostering energy research.

A balance has therefore to be achieved between the necessary application of the subsidiarity principle and the legitimacy of Member states to carry out the actions they assume are the best according to their specific circumstances and the necessity to optimise European research efforts, avoid duplication of efforts and have an EU research strategy why satisfies the global EU objectives of competitiveness, security of supply and environmental leadership. A number of activities and tools such as ERA Nets, Technology Platforms, Joint Technology Initiatives and Joint Implementation of Research programmes are already available to support this process.

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