Go to expert opinions


Keeping pace with the fast-changing EU energy policies

ETIP and SET Plan
Edoardo Genova

Edoardo Genova

Dissemination and Communication in European Projects

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent energy crisis that unfolded, the clean energy transition has accelerated on the wings of a fast-changing European policy landscape. The European Parliament and the Council agreed to revise the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Directives, which have been enacted into laws, respectively, on 20 September and 20 November 2023. Moreover, the European Commission (EC) has introduced the Green Deal Industrial Plan, which encompasses the Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA) and the Critical Raw Materials Act. These legislative proposals are critical to attaining the ambitious clean energy goals the EU has set by enacting and strengthening resilient clean energy supply chains.

Still, making such a rapidly changing legislative framework a reality is no easy job – especially when it comes to ensuring their correct implementation across 27 Member States, navigating their national idiosyncrasies, taking into account their industry ecosystems and ensuring not to create too much discontent. This is where the European Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan comes in. Since its inception in 2007, the Plan has sought to coordinate European and national Research and Innovation (R&I) strategies for low-carbon energy solutions. Nevertheless, given the rapidly evolving policy landscape, the SET Plan must adapt accordingly. After a thorough consultation process, on 20 October, the EC released the long-awaited Communication on the SET Plan’s revision.

Unveiling the Communication

The Communication was officially presented at the 17th SET Plan Conference organised in Viladecans (Barcelona, Spain) on 13 and 14 November, under the patronage of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU and titled “Energy Research and Innovation for a Competitive Europe”. This year, the Conference firmly focused on the necessity to enhance European competitiveness and technological sovereignty by relying on renewable energy sources (RES) manufactured within the EU borders. It is clear that the EC is committed to reinforcing the SET Plan, acknowledging its crucial role in delivering the EU Green Deal, REPowerEU and the Green Deal Industrial Plan, with a particular emphasis on the NZIA.

The Communication sets out six priorities: becoming world number one in renewables; delivering a smart, consumer-centric energy system; develop and strengthen energy-efficient systems; diversify and strengthen energy options for sustainable transport; driving ambition in carbon capture, utilisation, and storage; maintain and strengthen safety in the use of nuclear energy.

Although the EU excels in the deployment of sustainable energy solutions and clean energy R&I, the same cannot be said for the manufacturing of zero-emission technologies. The revised SET Plan and its stakeholders will help transform innovations into market-ready solutions that can be manufactured and scaled up within the EU.

The SET Plan key players are the Implementation Working Groups (IWG), clusters of industrial and research stakeholders tasked to advance the respective Implementation Plans (IP) – high-level instruments developed around specific energy technologies. The IWGs are crucial in enhancing Europe’s competitiveness, fostering growth, and generating employment opportunities.

Another relevant structure is the European Technology and Innovation Platforms (ETIPs), created to support the implementation of the SET Plan by bringing together EU countries, industries, and researchers in key areas. The ETIPs promote the market uptake of crucial energy technologies by pooling funding, skills, and research facilities.

ETIP and SET Plan

Since 2021, all the ETIPs and affiliated entities (ESTELA) have come together in the ETIPs Forum, an initiative created to develop a stable and structured dialogue between its members in order to avoid overlaps and duplications and to share the know-how and expertise of the various experts involved across all the ETIPs towards the same decarbonisation goals by 2030 and 2050.

Since its inception, the ETIPs Forum has increased its involvement in the SET Plan activities, providing contributions such as a set of six recommendations on the draft revised National Energy & Climate Plans (NECPs) – the NECPs are national plans each MSs must submit to the EC and update regularly to outline how they intend to meet the EU energy and climate targets for 2030.

The outcome of an independent work carried out by the ETIPs and released ahead of the SET Plan Communication, these recommendations demonstrated to be highly aligned with the Commission’s assessment of the NECPs and with the outcomes of the 17th SET Plan Conference and the aforementioned Communication. The first session of the Conference “Advancing Energy and Climate Goals: The Power of Research and Innovation”, moderated by Maria Laura Trifiletti, the facilitator of the ETIPs Forum, saw the participation of Vincent Berrutto, Head of Unit DG ENER B5. Mr. Berrutto praised the work of the ETIPs FORUM and presented the ETIPs’ recommendations himself, complementing them with feedback from the EC. NECPs are fundamental to delivering the R&I and competitiveness targets as they are the loci where MSs must state their own national objectives stemming from the SET Plan, R&I activities and related national budget allotted.

Towards climate-neutral industries

A resilient European industrial landscape cannot take place in a vacuum – it needs to be aligned with the overarching decarbonisation goals. As the NZIA states, the sought European energy security must be pursued through RES’s massive expansion and strengthening of the European clean energy supply chains. This is especially the case for processing industries; in fact, the transition of the EU’s energy-intensive industries to climate neutrality was given particular attention at the Conference. A dedicated session that saw the involvement of SET-IndEU, the project supporting the SET Plan IWG6 on Sustainable and Efficient Energy Use, addressed the issue of climate-neutral industries and how to guarantee them a sustainable and affordable energy supply in 2040-2050.

Our contribution

The 17th SET Plan Conference is taking place at a crucial juncture when R&I in clean energy technologies hold significant prominence on the global political agenda. This heightened attention is not only directed towards realising the goals of the European Green Deal but is also essential for ensuring energy security and fostering a robust, resilient and decarbonised European energy industry.

Zabala Innovation is the facilitator of the ETIPs FORUM, bringing all the ETIPs and affiliated entities together and seeking to make them speak with one voice, and the coordinator of the SET-IndEU, the project enhancing energy efficiency and promoting sustainable energy sourcing within the EU’s process industry.

Expert person

Edoardo Genova
Edoardo Genova

Brussels Office

Dissemination and Communication in European Projects