The EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) kicked off on June 22 in an entirely digital format, focusing on renewables and energy efficiency. Entitled “Beyond the crisis: clean energy for green recovery and growth,” the five-day event focuses on the European Green Deal, the EU Recovery Package and how clean energy policies can help Europe rebound from the crisis.

EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson delivered a keynote speech during the opening session on June 23 and hosted the EU Sustainable Energy Week Awards Ceremony, which celebrated outstanding individuals and projects.

This is the first time the EUSEW taking place since the EU launched the Green Deal.

“This week is about responding to a challenge that is also a first in its kind: a pandemic in a globalised world. I think there are two ways to look at the situation for our sector: as either a threat or a turning point,” Simson said in her opening speech.

“As a threat, we would just focus on how to repair the damage. The pandemic has triggered the largest recession since 1929 and sent shockwaves across the energy markets. Last week we saw new data from the IEA that global energy investment would fall by 20% in 2020, almost double of what we saw in the 2008 financial crisis,” she said. “But as a turning point, we should try turning adversity into opportunity. Not by choosing to simply ‘return to normal’: don’t forget our ‘normal’ had us on track to a rapidly heating planet. But by seeing this moment for what it truly is: an opportunity to reignite our economy while driving clean energy efforts even further,” she added. “We should use this moment to accelerate a radical change, starting with our initiatives for 2020.”

According to Simson, energy efficiency is the starting point. Because retrofitting buildings is the policy measure with the largest potential for creating new jobs and for reducing emissions in the short term. Buildings consume about 40% of our energy, so the EU intends to kick-start a wave of building renovation across Europe at double the pace. “If we do it right, we could see a movement that manages to be transformative for our energy efficiency and Europe’s construction sector alike, getting labour intensive industries back to work and reducing bills for households This is the logic for our Action Plan on buildings renovation that we will launch in September,” Simson said.

EU’s climate ambitions are pushing the bloc to explore the potential in new low-carbon fuels, like hydrogen. “We recognise its high potential as an energy carrier and a central role in decarbonising our system. So, we are launching a Roadmap on how we can build a Hydrogen ecosystem in Europe,” she said.

This hydrogen ecosystem complements the role of green electricity to reach net zero and should be powered by renewable electricity, in the medium to long term. “In fact, we estimate that when it comes to offshore wind we need to increase our supply twenty-fold. So we are working to present our Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy after the summer to guide us in boosting renewable levels in the energy mix,” Simson said.

“There is onecritical component underpinning all of this: infrastructure. The energy system of the future needs the infrastructure to match. And so we will present a revised proposal for TEN-E regulation to do just that by the end of this year,” the EU Energy Commissioner said.

All of that must come together in a clear vision of the energy system of the future: on July 8 the Commission will present such a vision with the EU’s Strategy for Energy System Integration, she said.

“This is one of the most difficult parts of our work to get right. I like to think of our energy system as a team of people working in a room together silently. Each is productive in their own right, but they are not communicating properly,” Simson said.

Energy System Integration is like creating a new language so that each individual can talk to one another and connect the dots in their work, she said, adding that now collaborating as one continuous and intuitive group, their output improves in quality and quantity. For the energy sector this translates into a continuous system across all energy carriers and infrastructures creating a more circular, decentralised and digitalised system. “That’s what we mean by Energy System Integration,” she said.

All of these plans are boosted by the Recovery Plan that the Commission proposed a few weeks ago. The Plan is green at its core and armed with instruments that will mobilise private and public actors for the clean energy transition.

The new Recovery and Resilience Facility worth €560 billion will support investments and reforms in line with the NECPs and the Just Transition plans, she said, adding that REACT-EU offers € 55 billion of additional funds for investments in the green and digital transitions, and key for the EU’s Renovation Wave.

“Leaving no-one behind is a non-negotiable for us and our reinforced Just Transition Fund, increased from €7.5 billion to €40 billion, makes that crystal clear,” she said. The doubling of funds for InvestEU, in particular for the sustainable infrastructure window can support large-scale energy infrastructure, like wind-parks, solar fields or interconnectors. “And the new Strategic Investment Facility will lift up the entire clean energy industrial ecosystem in Europe, strengthen its position in the economy while building up value chains of different technologies we need,” Simson said.

“Over the next three days we want to hear your ideas for our plans and everything related to clean energy for recovery and growth. We have organised sessions covering every aspect, whether it is the potential of clean energy technologies, the role of industry and citizens or honouring the work of some of the heroes and leaders in the energy sector,” Simson said, adding, “We have it all. So, if you’re as enthusiastic as I am about an economy built on clean, secure, efficient energy, then there is something here for you.”

EU Member states show progress towards Sustainable Development Goals

Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU, published on June 22 the “Sustainable development in the European Union — Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context – 2020 edition”. The report provides a statistical overview of progress towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the EU.

“Showing the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals in the EU, this report is our latest contribution to the debate on the shape of Europe and our world in 2030 and beyond, and on the action we must take to get there,” EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said. “As we battle the dramatic repercussions of the pandemic, we must not lose sight of global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss and growing social and economic inequality. Implementing policies to reach the SDGs is our roadmap to a better world and Europe must be at the forefront of that journey,” he added.

Sustainability is an fundamental objective of the European Union and a clear priority of the von der Leyen Commission. All Commission policies, such as  the transition to a climate-neutral and resource-efficient economy, are conducive to the achievement of the SDGs.

As of this year, progress made by Member States towards SDGs is integrated in the European Semester, with a summary assessment and a dedicated annex in each country report setting out the individual Member State’s SDG performance and the trend over the past five years. Overall, the report confirms that the EU has made progress towards almost all SDGs over the past five years.

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