Interview: William Gillett,

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Interview: William Gillett,
Interview: William Gillett,

William Gillett, Head of Unit for IEE - Renewable Energy
Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (EACI)

What remain the big challenges in European energy policy?

The Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE) programme has been managed by the European Commission's Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (EACI) since 2004, and the main aim of the programme is to support the implementation or EU sustainable energy policies.  Although of course the EU energy markets have been changing very rapidly in recent years, in our view, the long term challenges facing the energy sector in the EU today remain very similar to those which led to the EU 202020 climate and energy commitments in 2007.  The EU needs to ensure a secure and reliable supply of energy at affordable prices in order to maintain the competitiveness of its industries and a good quality of life for its citizens.  The EU is committed to its world leadership role in cutting carbon emissions because of their impacts on the climate, and most important in today's on-going financial crisis, the sustainable energy sector (including energy efficiency and renewable energies) offers many great opportunities for the creation of long term, high quality jobs and businesses.

Research and Innovation

European Union has supported a great number of very relevant projects in energy through different Framework Programmes driving innovation and cooperation. How can businesses access and build upon this knowledge?  What are the priorities of the current call and what is future for Intelligent Energy Europe?

The IEE programme, which forms part of the EU framework programme for Competitiveness and Innovation (CIP) is dedicated to removing market barriers that delay the up-take of proven energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, systems, services and processes.  The aims of the IEE programme are perhaps best described as helping to put in place non-technological "organizational" innovations in the EU's sustainable energy markets.  More than 3000 organisations have participated in more than 300 projects which have been co-funded by the IEE programme in the period 2007-2012, and a further 50-60 projects are likely to be supported in response to the final call for IEE-II, which has a deadline on 8 May 2013. 

Three main types of IEE project are supported, namely projects which support policy implementation, projects which build capacities and skills in key public and private sector stakeholder organisations, and projects which help to mobilise investments in the sustainable energy sector.  IEE projects address the deployment of all kinds of energy efficiency systems and services for buildings, industry, consumer products and transport markets, as well as all available sources of renewable energy for electricity production, heating and cooling, consumer products and transport.  In the next seven years, the Intelligent Energy Europe programme will form a part of the new Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation.


EEIP is active on social media and following a lot of received interest we are commencing project on support for young people to choose engineering. Which approach you think should be taken to ensure that right skills and education are available to enable sustainable energy future in Europe. Is EACI or the EU Commission active in this?

Capacity and skills building is one of the pillars of the IEE programme, and the most important IEE initiative which is currently being supported is "Build up Skills".  This initiative is focused on developing the skills of on site workers who make key practical decisions on site in the buildings sector, and therefore have a crucial impact on the energy performance of newly constructed or refurbished buildings.  This is very important right across the EU because more than 40% of EU energy is consumed in buildings.  The Build up Skills initiative has begun by funding the preparation of a national "roadmap" for developing the skills of existing craftsmen (plumbers, electricians, roofers, etc) in each of the EU Member States, and for providing, funding, and certifying their training.  

In the second Phase of Build up Skills, which was launched at the end of 2012, IEE funding will be provided for concrete implementation of the national infra-structure which has been identified as being needed in these roadmaps.  However, the level of funding required for the actual training itself would be far too big to be covered by the IEE budget, and therefore remains outside the scope of the IEE programme.  The IEE programme has also funded a number of projects which directly address sustainable energy issues for young people, including a "kids corner" for school children and teachers on the ManagEnergy website, outreach to young people through pop music festivals, and specific training courses for example for energy managers, geothermal drillers, and PV system installers.  Skills and capacity building is expected to continue in future in the context of the Horizon 2020 programme.


The main barrier for sustainable energy in Europe, has been identified as access to financing (especially for SMEs). Seems that technologies are there but not fully applied. What is your view? How can we motivate private sector to invest?

One of the key problems with energy efficiency and renewable energy projects is that they are usually too small to be of interest to most banks and investors.  The IEE programme has therefore been pioneering new ways to put together "bankable projects", which will attract investment capital.  Through its ELENA and MLEI initiatives the IEE programme provides "Project Development Assistance (PDA)" funding to local and regional authorities which have developed sustainable energy action plans for the local communities, so that they can prepare and implement concrete sustainable energy investment projects.  This is an important first step to bring more investment capital into the sustainable energy sector, and of course many of the actual implementers of these projects are SMEs. 

The PDA funds permit many small projects to be bundled together to permit economies of scale, for example a province can help many municipalities within its territory to replace their old street lighting with more efficient devices by bundling all of their requirements into one large procurement contract, or many different schools in a region can be refurbished with more efficient heating, lighting, insulation materials and PV roofs as one single procurement project.  An important approach which is being used in many of these projects is "energy performance contracting", which was identified as an important opportunity in the Energy Efficiency Directive that was adopted in October 2012.


You are working on renewable energy sources strategies. The theme of the current issue of our magazine is if European factories can run on renewables? What is your view?

Renewable energies are already being widely used across the EU, for electricity production as well as for heating and cooling, and for producing motive power.  The amount of renewable electricity which is already being delivered to factories and to other kinds of energy consumers varies widely between the different EU Member States, but is already on average around 20% of all of the delivered electricity in the EU.  As we look forward to 2020, it is foreseen that more than one third of all of the electricity which is being used in the EU will come from renewable energy sources. 

So the answer to your question is certainly YES !  Today, European factories are running very well on renewable electricity, and many of them do not even think about that any more.  Some factories especially in the paper industry and the food industry can produce their own renewable energy using combined heat and power systems which deliver both electricity and heat from what would otherwise be wastes from their industrial processes.  Other factories are located in windy or sunny areas and have decided to invest in their own wind or solar PV generators.  The trend is certainly set for far more renewable energy to be used in European factories in the coming years.  Most of this will probably be delivered by electricity or gas grids, some may be generated on site by energy service companies which are contracted using energy performance contracts by the factory owners to deliver their needs, and some may be generated on site by the factories themselves.  All of these solutions will provide the European factory owners of the future with clean, reliable and affordable sources of energy, with prices which are far less volatile than those of imported gas and oil today.


About the author
William Gillett is an engineer, who is currently Head of Unit for Renewable Energy in the European Commission's Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (EACI), based in Brussels, where he leads a team of 12 renewable energy specialists, who manage projects that tackle non-technological and market barriers to the deployment of renewable energy. Before moving to the EACI, William was based in the European Commission's Directorate for Energy and Transport (DG TREN), where he helped to manage the Commission’s research programme on sustainable energies. Before that, he worked in UK in the private sector, mainly on renewable energy.

Posted on March 25, 2013 - (3750 views)
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