Renewable energy is expected to be one of the beneficiaries of a new infrastructure fund worth €315 billion (US$392 billion) unveiled by the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.
Juncker said the commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) could source €63 billion of the three-year fund with the rest leveraged from the private sector.
The president said in a speech in Strasbourg that he wanted the fund to develop schools, hospitals and IT infrastructure. In addition he said: “Households and companies want to benefit from technological progress and are crying out for action to become more energy-efficient. Our energy sector needs to interconnect networks and markets, integrate renewable sources of energy and diversify our sources of supply.”
James Watson, CEO of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) welcomed the announcement and said solar could play a part in achieving the president’s objectives.
“To maximise the benefits of investments for the European economy and citizens, the new fund must focus on innovative sectors that will provide sustainable long term jobs, such as the solar sector,” he said. “This will improve Europe's energy independency, will reduce Europe's carbon emissions and enable consumers to control their energy bills. Solar and other empowering consumers' technologies must be prioritised in this initiative,” added Watson.
Juncker also called on national governments to contribute to the fund and said it would look to harmonise regulations related to its projects so that “a single EU regulation can replace 28 sets of laws”.
Without giving specifics, he said money would be diverted from the existing Horizon 2020 research and innovation fund and the Connecting Europe facility.
Horizon 2020 has funded a PV cell efficiency project while Connecting Europe was responsible for work on a European Supergrid and better interconnections between European neighbours.