The ERA-Net is a funding tool under Horizon 2020, dedicated to achieve a European Research Area (ERA) by gathering countries and regions who want to fund transnational research and innovation projects. There are many different ERA-Nets, and Nordic Energy Research is involved as Call Management in two focus initiatives – Smart Energy Systems (RegSys) and EnerDigit. Sofia Elamson, Adviser at Nordic Energy Research, explains the whats, hows and whys of these activities.

“The main goal of the focus initiative RegSys has been to accelerate the development and integration of regional energy systems by innovation in system management. All elements, such as heating and cooling grids, electricity, building infrastructure, etc., shall be combined with the different end-users and energy conversion management, and thereby become integrated. This is supposed to enable regions and local communities to reach their goals on decarbonization and link them to a resilient European energy system. RegSys has constantly highlighted the involvement of need-owners and end-users, and that projects should consider not only technological solutions but also market integration and barriers in societies and communities. This approach is included in the EnerDigit initiative as well, which promotes applied research and development, piloting, and demonstration in digitalization of energy systems and networks,” says Sofia.

Boosting digitalization

Along with the fundamental transformation of the energy system, the regional and local energy systems need to adapt. According to Sofia, “the regional and local energy systems’ ability to cope with the fundamental transformation comes from new and improved technology, development of business models, and trends in society. Boosting digitalization is a key factor in this transformation, as it makes energy systems smarter, more efficient, and sustainable, and will have a major effect on future energy systems.” This is what makes the ERA-Net project’s developing and integrating objectives relevant to attain. “However, digitalization can at the same time make energy systems more vulnerable, which is why digital resilience is in focus too,” says Sofia.

Coordination, funding, and future

To support the ERA-Net initiatives, Nordic Energy Research has been responsible for the role of Call Management since 2015. “The Call Management administrates the call procedure, from scoping of themes for the call text and supporting applicants, to evaluation of project proposals and finally selection of the projects of highest quality,” explains Sofia. The main event during an ERA-Net cycle is the joint co-funded call, where the European Commission also contributes with funding.

Over the years, the annual calls have involved 34 national or regional funding agencies and resulted in more than 90 transnational projects, receiving about 100 million euros in funding. Since 2019, Nordic Energy Research has also been one of the funders to support Nordic and Baltic applicants participating in projects on energy storage and on digital transformation for a green energy transition.

As Horizon 2020 has been succeeded by Horizon Europe, the ERA-Net funding model is replaced with a new partnership model. “Several of the ‘old’ ERA-Nets are now gathering with new partners in the Clean Energy Transition Partnership (CETP). The CETP will be a major research and innovation collaboration, consisting of more than 70 European partners, aiming to boost and accelerate a clean energy transition to make Europe climate neutral. This means that Nordic Energy Research’s role as coordinator of the work package on Call Management will expand, as it encompasses a higher number of partners and collaborators,” concludes Sofia.

CETP is officially expected to launch in 2022.