EU energy policy: Towards a third industrial revolution

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

“Within a single generation, we can give Europe a truly sustainable energy system,” writes EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs in a February paper for the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies.

“If we invest wisely in research and give European companies the right incentives to become world-leaders in renewable and other low-carbon energy technologies, we can put the EU at the forefront of the third industrial revolution in the same way as US investment in computing put them at the forefront of the second,” writes Piebalgs.

“Few would deny that energy security and climate change represent the greatest challenges of this generation,” declares the commissioner, describing climate change as a “threat and a barrier”. “Until now, the earth has been capable of supporting our ever-increasing demands on her resources. But with six billion people today, we have already reached the point of quite literal non-sustainability,” he warns.

The UN predicts that the world’s population will hit 2.5 billion by 2050, while continually rising expectations of living standards across the globe “will cause enormous damage to our health, our wealth, and our ability to live in peace and prosperity,” Piebalgs warns.

Over the next decade, “the first real challenge and responsibility of the EU is to develop a society which is truly sustainable, to provide a model that the rest of the world can follow,” according to the commissioner.

“Gas and oil pipelines supplying the EU today have been constructed in the interests of energy companies, rather than with the guarantee of the EU’s energy security in mind,” Piebalgs writes.

“This must now change,” for “over the last four years, the EU has undergone an energy revolution,” the bloc’s energy chief declares. “For the first time in its history, it has taken a conscious decision to collectively direct its own energy future, rather than simply leaving the market to provide its needs.”

“None of our energy objectives will be possible without a step-change regarding research,” fears Piebalgs. “We need to acknowledge the vital and strategic role of energy for the EU, jointly plan our actions, effectively implement our current policies through a more targeted and powerful instruments, increase our financial and human resources and reinforce international cooperation,” he explains.

“If we invest strongly and wisely in technology, and if we recognise that the third industrial revolution means that research should be considered as a central pillar of our economic policy, there is also every reason […] why the EU is in a unique place to take the leadership in this challenge,” concludes Piebalgs. 

Subscribe to our newsletters