EU plans to defeat China and US in clean tech battle

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, the EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen stressed the bloc’s need to boost its clean tech industry and increase its competitiveness against the US and China– amidst increasing trade tensions with both nations.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the market for mass-manufactured clean energy tech will be worth around $650 billion a year by 2030 — three times more than today’s levels. And according to Von der Leyen, the targeted net-zero transformation is already causing tremendous industrial, economic, and geopolitical shifts — leaving the EU with a small window of opportunity to invest and gain leadership in the industry.

The newly-announced Green Deal Industrial Plan (GDIP) aims to make Europe “the home of clean tech.” To realize that, it focuses on four main points: the regulatory environment, financing, skills, and trade.

The first pillar will see the creation of a regulatory framework that will simplify and fast-track access to funding and permits, focusing on critical net-zero sectors such as wind, solar, and clean hydrogen. To support this, a new Net-Zero Industry Act will set clear goals for European clean tech by 2030. In essence, it will target investments on strategic projects along the entire supply chain.

“So far, the EU taxonomy has shortcomings, hindering the inclusion and growth of innovative players,” Dr Andreas Sichert — CEO of German clean tech company Orcan Energy — told TNW in response to the GDIP. “We must harness the small window to foster innovation and clean tech and ensure their quick scale-up by creating a fertilizing regulatory environment free of blockages.”

The plan’s second focal point is to drive up investment and financing of clean tech production. “To keep European industry attractive, there is a need to be competitive with the offers and incentives that are currently available outside the EU,” Von der Leyen noted.

For this reason, the bloc should temporarily adapt its state aid rules to make them faster and simpler for calculations, procedures, and approvals — such as the tax-break option. And to ensure funding support across the entire Union, the Commission will prepare a European Sovereignty Fund.

The GDIP will also aim for the growth of the skills and skilled workers needed to facilitate the transition. It will finally seek to promote global and open fair trade.

“For clean tech to deliver net zero globally, there will be a need for strong and resilient supply chains. Our economies will rely ever more on international trade as the transition speeds up to open up more markets and to access the inputs needed for industry,” the Commission’s chief said.