The European Commission believes that energy research in the European Union is often under-funded and badly coordinated and has proposed a Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET) to help the region meet greenhouse gas emission targets.

The Commission says that energy technologies will be crucial to successfully fighting climate change and hopes that the SET will realise Europe’s potential for developing low carbon technologies such as offshore wind, solar technology and second-generation biomass. Critics of the proposed plan say that it lacks clarity and focus, however.

The SET will establish a new energy research agenda for Europe in order to put it at the forefront of the rapidly growing low carbon technology sector as well as meet targets for renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency and energy security.

“The Energy Policy for Europe calls for a new industrial revolution. Like all industrial revolutions, this one is going to be technology driven and it is high time to transform our political vision into concrete actions,” said European Commissioner for Energy Andris Piebalgs.

Piebalgs added: “Decisions taken over the next 10-15 years will have profound consequences for energy security, for climate change and for growth and jobs in Europe. If we fall behind in the intensifying global race to win low carbon technology markets, we risk meeting our targets with imported technologies.”

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has criticized the plan for not setting priorities. It should include a clearer distinction between the technologies already available today or those in the final stages of development and those likely to have an impact after 2020, says EWEA.

“The Commission’s Plan is a good basis for discussion at the Energy Council on 3 December. If complemented by the visions and additional measures presented by the Portuguese Presidency, there is hope for a positive outcome,” said Christian Kjaer, EWEA CEO. “Europe has to prioritise research investments now in efficiency, renewable energy technologies and infrastructure if we are to emerge successfully from the looming climate and energy crisis while reaping the commercial benefits of technology exports.”

The European Commission’s proposal involves strengthening industrial research and innovation by aligning European, national and industrial activities and the creation of a European Energy Research Alliance to improve cooperation between different organizations.

Public energy research budgets have declined substantially since the 1980s, according to the Commission, and increased funding in this field is required. The Commission plans to present ideas on financing low carbon technologies next year.