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News 04 June 2021

SUPEERA webinar explores challenges and opportunities of clean energy transition - digital transformation nexus

Gathering more than 50 participants, the SUPEERA webinar "A European Green Deal fit for the Digital Age: What's in for Clean Energy Research?" brought together policymakers, researchers, and representatives from the IT sector. On this occasion, they discussed the relationship between the twin green and digital transitions and their effects on clean energy research.  

Held on 28 May 2021, the event was the second of a series of policy webinars organised in the framework of the SUPEERA project to inform about the latest EU climate and energy policies and how these can be translated into research and innovation (R&I) challenges to the EERA and SET Plan communities. More specifically, this webinar aimed to highlight the R&I, policy, and business priorities regarding the Clean Energy Transition in Europe in their complex relations with the unfolding digital landscape and contribute to developing innovative solutions to address these challenges.  

Key outcomes of the discussion

The event was opened by Rosita Zilli, EERA Senior Policy Officer, who gave an overview of the SUPEERA project and its objectives. Besides introducing the topic of discussion, Ms Zilli stated the importance of digitalisation in the energy sector as a key enabler of the transition.  

The introductory remarks were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Adel El Gammal, EERA Secretary General. The panel benefitted from the perspectives of the European Commission and European Parliament, represented respectively by Vincent Berrutto, Head of Unit Innovation, Research, Digitalisation, and Competitiveness – Directorate-General for Energy (DG ENER), and Claudia Gamon, Member of the Committee on Industry, Research, and Energy (ITRE). The discussions also counted on the participation of Rafael Mayo-Garcia, Senior Researcher at CIEMAT and Coordinator of the transversal Joint Programme Digitalisation for Energy (tJP DfE), and Olena Kushakovska, Senior Development Manager at SAP Labs France and member of the Integrated Civil and Infrastructure Research Centre (ICAIR) at the University of Sheffield.  

During her intervention, MEP Claudia Gamon highlighted how digital innovation could contribute to EU's ambition of a sustainable energy transition. In particular, she stressed the importance of investing in R&I and basic research as the best form of resilience. Higher investments in the sector would allow groundbreaking innovation and new technologies, strengthening the EU's long-term recovery capacity. Diving deeper into what is needed to make the clean energy transition a reality, MEP Gamon also highlighted the crucial importance of the role played by citizens. "While digitalisation represents a key enabler, what is needed is a bottom-up approach creating a balance between strategic decisions and the need to listen to people on the ground", she acknowledged.  

Providing insights on current and upcoming EU Commission's priorities in the fields of digitalisation and energy, Vincent Berrutto defined the nexus between the energy transition and the digital transformation of utmost importance. "Digital solutions have a major role to play: they will help us plan and operate our energy system as a whole across multiple energy carriers, infrastructures, and consumption sectors, creating stronger links between them", he stated. Mr Berrutto concluded his intervention by introducing the upcoming EU Commission's Action Plan for Digitalisation of the Energy System. This action plan will support the development of a competitive market for digital energy services, guaranteeing cybersecurity and data protection, and will give R&I a prominent role.  

As the event moved forward, Rafael Mayo-García presented the objectives and the work carried out by the EERA transversal Joint Programme Digitalisation for Energy, bringing forward the vision of the research community. Mr Mayo-García highlighted the importance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as one of the technologies that will have the most transformative impact in the energy transition. Moreover, he stressed the need of integrating existing methodologies and capabilities to enhance the  energy system efficiency.  

Olena Kushakovska supported this latest view and emphasised the role of AI as a tool to forecast peaks in demand and reduce energy consumption, predict renewable energy production, and optimise utilisation and storage needs. Ms. Kushakovska concluded her intervention by stating the importance of public intervention for the transition. "Public authorities can have a strong stance in the green energy transition: they need to make sure that big tech companies are transparent about their use of energy", she asserted.  

Concluded by Ivan Matejak, SUPEERA Project Coordinator and EERA Operations Director, the webinar showed the pivotal importance of digitalisation in the energy sector as a critical enabler of the Clean Energy Transition. Indeed, digitalisation will not only be crucial to improve the productivity, accessibility, and sustainability of energy systems around the world, but it will also offer major opportunities for innovation and job creation.  

For further information about the topics discussed during the webinar, the recording and presentations can be found on the following page.