Business, local governments, trade unions, and NGOs have urged EU leaders to rise up to the challenge of climate action and speed up Europe’s transition to a sustainable society.

“Unprecedented citizen mobilisations are taking place across EU member states calling for increased action against climate change, showing that climate action is an integral element of the future of Europe and that increasing the EU’s commitments under the Paris Agreement is an urgent necessity,” the Coalition for Higher Ambition wrote in an open letter ahead of the upcoming European Council on 21 March where leaders will discuss the Commission’s vision for a climate neutral economy.

The second High-level meeting of the renewable energy section of the Clean Energy Industrial Forum (CEICIF), chaired by EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete, took place on 18 March where he reiterated the Commission’s commitment to having the EU becoming a world leader on renewable energy.

“We are convinced that the clean energy transition is a real and concrete opportunity in terms of investment, growth and jobs in Europe and the renewable energy sector will play a key role to help European industries to be a world leader in decarbonisation, innovation and digitalization,” Cañete said in his speech, noting that the meeting on 18 March provides a timely opportunity to reflect on the developments at both policy and regulatory level as well as in the European industry, and to discuss how these new trends can be further translated into new actions to support the competitiveness of the European renewable energy industry.

Cañete said, “With the Clean Energy for All Europeans package adopted, we have prepared a solid and comprehensive basis for strengthening the industrial competitiveness of your industry. With at least 32% renewables by 2030, and a review clause by 2023, we have an ambitious target for renewables and coherent supporting provisions, including for the heating and cooling as well as transport sectors. We have the new Electricity Market Design. With our Governance Regulation, we have concrete and transparent National Energy and Climate Plans being developed for the period up to 2030. In this way, we have now in place the most advanced regulatory framework supporting the clean energy transition.”

The new regulatory framework provides certainty to investors and will support European industries in the renewable energy sector, Cañete said, adding that it delivers a “Europeanisation” of renewable energy policy creating bigger market opportunities to go beyond national borders.

“It creates a modernised electricity system that is fit to integrate the growing share of variable and decentralised renewable energies in a flexible, competitive and secure way. It will deliver on jobs, economic growth, energy security, and empowerment of our citizens,” he said.

Turning to the importance of EU policies for boosting competitiveness, notably through research & innovation and trade, and driving the clean energy transition forward, the Commissioner said it is the EU’s role today to discuss and identify concrete actions that will able to prepare and reinforce the industrial competitiveness of the European renewable energy industry. “This year we will again be the first to deploy large scale offshore wind turbines of 10 MW, another example where sustained research and innovation support has helped European companies to have a leading edge in the industry,” he said. “As a further example, innovative perovskite solar cells solutions have emerged this year into the market thanks to European Union support. Through continuous support, we are now at a stage where a German manufacturing plant will demonstrate the commercial viability of producing crystalline silicon and perovskite solar cells. This very promising new technology for PV panels will represent a leap in PV efficiency compared to other commercially available technologies, assuring a strong competitive advantage of European renewable energy technologies,” he added.

The EU wants to maintain its commitment to public investments to support technological leadership across the renewable portfolio. “We have therefore proposed that in our future research and innovation programme Horizon Europe, 35% of the funding will be dedicated to clean energy transition-related technologies,” Cañete said.

Furthermore, the EU has adopted the Innovation Fund with an expected €10 billion in funds to support technological solutions to fast-forward us towards a climate-neutral society over the period from 2020 to 2030. Moreover, the EU has rolled out its InnovFin-Energy Demonstration Projects fund which mobilised €172 million to support first-of-its-kind demonstration projects for clean energy technologies.

Another important area to support European leadership and industrial competitiveness is the EU trade policy. “Through our trade policies, we have to make sure that we have access to these emerging markets, and that are European companies can compete at a level playing field,” Cañete said, adding that it is also important to reflect on the new developments, brought by the new regulatory framework and enabling initiatives of the Clean Energy package.