Energy & Environment

EU Sustainable Energy Week 2024: Paving the Way to a Net-Zero Europe

June 2024
By Sara Bellucci

Last week (from June 11 to 13), Brussels hosted the European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) 2024, a prominent event organized by the European Commission. This year’s theme, “Net-zero energy solutions for a competitive Europe,” framed the discussions and activities throughout the week.

The event featured a high-level Policy Conference, the EUSEW Awards, and the fifth European Youth Energy Day. EUSEW serves as a crucial platform for the Commission to engage with industry representatives and civil society organizations, while also showcasing advancements in sustainable energy to a broader audience. Participants focused on addressing challenges and exploring opportunities, particularly within three main themes: net-zero solutions for a competitive Europe, city actions and decarbonization, and energy efficiency and renewables.

Attendance this year reached impressive numbers, with over 2,200 delegates present in Brussels and an additional 8,000 participants following events online. These figures reaffirm EUSEW’s position as the largest annual event dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency in Europe.

The event opened with a compelling speech by Commissioner Kadri Simson, who highlighted significant progress since she took office in 2019. “Results speak for themselves,” she stated, noting the substantial growth in EU wind and solar capacity. Since 2019, wind and solar capacity has increased by 65% (+188 GW), wind capacity alone has risen by 31% (+52 GW), and solar capacity has more than doubled (+113%) from 120 to 257 gigawatts. This growth is equivalent to installing over 230,000 solar panels daily over the past four years. Simson emphasized the necessity of continuing this momentum and the importance of implementing a robust infrastructure framework, particularly focusing on electricity grids and hydrogen. “Now we must take the right steps to ensure that our industry can grow and compete in this new normal,” she added.

Thus, the main message from the conference can be summarizing though the words of the Deputy Director-General for Energy, European Commission, Matthew Baldwin: “The next stage in our journey binds the Green Deal and our competitiveness agenda even more closely together”. Indeed, while the overall framework towards 2050 has been set up the focus is shifting implementation and further adjustments will be in the spotlight during the next legislative term. 

The various sessions of the Policy Conference, gathering stakeholders from the institutions and the associations, thus discussed these needs, going from implementation issues, as financing building renovations, to specific issues that still have to be better regulated, as intelligent digitalization, the use of waste heat for decarbonizing buildings and energy efficiency in datacenters. 

A major highlight of the week was the EUSEW Awards, which celebrated innovation and excellence in sustainable energy. PHOTORAMA won in the ‘Innovation’ category for its circular solutions to solar panel recycling in Austria. Centrales Villageoises received the ‘Local Energy Action’ award for developing a network of local communities to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in France. The ‘Women in Energy’ award went to Rita Gomes, CEO of Seenergy in Portugal, for her pioneering work in integrating renewable energy solutions into household objects.

Additionally, the event spotlighted the Young Energy Ambassadors, a group of 30 young professionals in the energy sector selected in April for a 12-month term beginning in May 2024. These ambassadors participated in outreach activities and held a closed-door session to co-create recommendations for the future of clean energy for the next Commissioner in charge of energy.

Despite the vibrant participation and numerous activities, the event took place in a somewhat peculiar atmosphere. Huge attention was comprehensibly devoted to the European election results which were coming in during the days of the conference. A sense of uncertainty over the future of EU green policies was what really distinguished this year’s session.