The European Commission has launched a new initiative to accelerate the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies in the energy sector. The project, called ACT-FAST (Accelerating Clean Energy Technology Fostering and Adoption through System Transformation), aims to foster collaboration and coordination among 32 countries and regions, as well as various stakeholders from industry, academia, and civil society.
What is ACT-FAST, and why is it important?
ACT-FAST is a partnership fund under the Horizon Europe program, the EU’s flagship research and innovation funding scheme for 2021–2027. It builds on the success of previous initiatives such as the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) and the Mission Innovation (MI) challenge.
The project has a common vision to achieve a clean energy transition that is affordable, reliable, and socially acceptable while contributing to the EU’s climate and energy goals and the global Paris Agreement. ACT-FAST will support the development, demonstration, and integration of renewable energy technologies, as well as the transformation of energy systems and infrastructure. It will also foster innovation ecosystems that enable faster market diffusion, upscaling, replication, and social acceptance of clean energy solutions.
ACT-FAST has three main goals:
- Joint programming and funding: The project will mobilize public and private resources to support collaborative research and innovation projects, as well as cross-border cooperation and knowledge exchange. It will also align national and regional policies and strategies to create a coherent and consistent framework for clean energy innovation.
- Technology development, demonstration, and integration: The project will focus on key technologies that have the potential to decarbonize the energy sector, such as renewable fuels, carbon capture and storage, power generation, heating, and cooling. It will also address the challenges and opportunities of integrating these technologies into the energy system, such as grid flexibility, storage, demand response, and digitalization.
- Innovation ecosystem fostering: The project will enhance the capacity and skills of researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs, and citizens to participate in and benefit from the clean energy transition. It will also facilitate the creation and scaling up of innovative business models, as well as the involvement and empowerment of end-users and communities.
How will ACT-FAST benefit the EU and the world?
ACT-FAST is expected to bring multiple benefits to the EU and the world, such as:
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing energy security: By supporting the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies, ACT-FAST will help the EU achieve its target of reducing its net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and reaching climate neutrality by 2050. It will also reduce the EU’s dependence on fossil fuels and increase its energy diversification and resilience.
- Boosting economic growth and competitiveness: By stimulating innovation and investment in the energy sector, ACT-FAST will create new markets and opportunities for European businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It will also generate new jobs and skills, as well as enhance the EU’s global leadership and influence in clean energy technologies and solutions.
- Improving social welfare and well-being: By ensuring a fair and inclusive clean energy transition, ACT-FAST will improve the quality of life and health of European citizens, especially those in vulnerable and remote areas. It will also increase public awareness and engagement, as well as foster social cohesion and trust.
What are the next steps and challenges for ACT-FAST?
ACT-FAST is currently in the process of finalizing its governance structure and operational modalities, as well as defining its strategic research and innovation agenda and roadmap. The project is expected to launch its first calls for proposals in 2022, with a total budget of €1.5 billion for the period 2021–2027.
However, ACT-FAST also faces some challenges and uncertainties, such as:
- Coordinating and aligning the interests and priorities of diverse and heterogeneous partners, as well as ensuring their commitment and accountability.
- Balancing the need for long-term vision and planning with the need for flexibility and adaptability to changing circumstances and emerging opportunities.
- Leveraging and complementing existing initiatives and platforms, as well as avoiding duplication and fragmentation of efforts and resources,
- Measuring and communicating the impact and value of the project, as well as ensuring its visibility and recognition.
Despite these challenges, ACT-FAST has a strong potential to make a significant contribution to the clean energy transition in Europe and beyond, as well as to the global fight against climate change.