The energy transition on a global scale, and particularly within Europe, is a daunting task. Throughout the 20th century, Europe, like other nations worldwide, relied heavily on fossil fuels. Now, Europe faces a significant opportunity.

For too long, our energy supply has depended on third countries that possess these resources. At last, strides are being made toward energy independence. This shift will not only help reduce our carbon footprint and enhance air quality, but also bring about crucial benefits such as geo-strategic security for our territory against external threats. It will improve internal stability through lower electricity prices, thereby offering greater control over them to both consumers and industries. This, in turn, has a direct impact on controlling inflation—a matter of great importance today. Furthermore, this transition will broaden our monetary policy options, which will, in turn, influence the entire economy of the bloc.

As we all know, the solution in terms of energy should not involve dependence on one or two of the available sources, but rather, being able to have a varied mix of them that makes our matrix more resilient: water, tides, waves, the sun, wind, or geothermal are some of the renewable energy sources available and that, to a greater or lesser extent, are being used. The idea is that each country finds its best matrix based on its specific circumstances, and that these types of sources can continue to increase their importance year after year until the objectives are completely achieved.

The European Union has established a roadmap to achieve ambitious objectives in this matter, but there is still a long way to go and many challenges that we must face. Some of them involve the adoption of new disruptive technologies that were not in the equation at the time of drawing up the energy roadmap. Other challenges involve taking advantage of technologies already available and easy to apply, both at the level of energy generation and to reduce energy consumption with efficiency. Finally, it is important to consider all this in conjunction with complementary policies that are beneficial in achieving the final objective.

With respect to the disruptive technologies mentioned, we cannot fail to mention nuclear fusion: the new paradigm that nuclear fusion offers us compared to traditional nuclear fission is exciting and revolutionary. Having the possibility of having unlimited energy and, above all, without risks or waste, is worth having as a priority on the agenda of our community. Although the US has leadership in this technology, the EU must make the greatest efforts to be able to develop itself within our borders. The resistance that exists in some sectors of the population to the use of nuclear energy (by fission) due to the resulting risks can be definitively overcome with this technology.

Producing clean energy is important, but even more important is being able to reduce the energy consumption of the grid. The simplest way to do this is not to force the population or industry to consume less, but through energy efficiency: Demonstrated with the lighting revolution through LED technology, which already occupies most of our streets. Technological developments in recent decades make it possible for us to continue advancing in this direction today and have a different perspective or applications than those traditionally given. I cite some representative examples from an energy point of view:

Wind and Hydraulic Microgeneration

Renewable energy sources, traditionally accessible only to ‘‘big actors,‘‘ are now available at a micro level with minimal implementation costs. While the main grid plays a crucial role, it cannot extend its reach everywhere, and hypercentralized energy systems increase our vulnerability. The ability to achieve electrical independence in more isolated areas will address the challenge of energy transportation and support the development of rural and agricultural industries. Consequently, this contributes to mitigating depopulation in rural areas.

Photovoltaic Lighting

We must not overlook the significant role of public lighting in energy consumption, reducing this expenditure has direct and substantial effects on the electrical grid, yielding considerable savings in energy and capital. Nowadays, it is feasible to achieve renewable lighting at no cost and with minimal impact on grid consumption. Through the integration of three technologies—photovoltaic, energy storage, and LED—into a single device, lighting can be provided for our streets and other areas. This is a technology that Next City Labs has been developing for years and has successfully implemented in numerous countries worldwide.

However, until recently, relying on solar energy was considered a risk by many public and private institutions due to concerns that lighting on roads, streets, and private spaces could be weather-dependent. This challenge motivated us to develop a hybrid luminaire, which prioritizes solar energy, but switches to the grid when the battery is depleted. This approach ensures pure sustainability without risks.

Photovoltaic Architecture

There is widespread recognition of the benefits of photovoltaic technology across various levels. However, the availability of space for its application is often limited to the rooftops of buildings.

The concept of photovoltaic architecture introduces new value to photovoltaic technology by integrating photovoltaic panels into the building itself (known as BIPV, or BuildingIntegrated Photovoltaics). This approach transforms a construction material into a dual-purpose solution that not only forms part of the building but also generates energy for the building‘s use, significantly expanding the areas available for energy generation without compromising the building‘s aesthetics.

The European standard on efficient buildings will undoubtedly promote the adoption of these materials in both the present and future.

In addition to photovoltaic technology, other innovative methods of energy generation hold great potential. For example, aerothermal energy allows for the extraction of energy from the outdoor ambient air for use in air conditioning and heating systems within homes. This technology offers significant reductions in consumption and a short return-on-investment period, especially in countries facing higher air conditioning costs. The widespread adoption of this technology offers substantial benefits.

Finally, we cannot overlook one of the most crucial elements for achieving the net-zero objective: energy storage.

Energy storage is key to the successful development of renewable energies. Ensuring a reliable energy supply is vital, making storage an essential component of any project. Lithium has emerged as the leading technology in this field, with its significant benefits widely recognized. However, there are two main challenges associated with lithium: first, it is a scarce material that is difficult to extract, and as demand is expected to continue rising, prices are likely to increase accordingly. Second, the extraction of lithium is almost monopolized by China, creating excessive dependence for industries reliant on this resource.

Europe must concentrate its efforts on researching new technologies to secure a leadership position in the future, while also implementing currently available technologies. One of the most promising alternatives is sodium-based storage technology. Sodium is one of the most abundant elements worldwide, available to all countries, thus ensuring complete independence and much lower costs per Watt-Hour (Wh).

The automotive industry, a key economic sector in the European Union and a cornerstone of our industry, stands to benefit significantly from this advancement. It allows for a substantial reduction in the production costs of electric vehicles, decreases dependency and uncertainty, and ensures a fast and simple supply chain, free from the logistical challenges that have emerged in the second decade of this century, such as the pandemic, the Suez Canal blockage, and the Red Sea conflict. And we are uncertain of what more may come.

The technologies proposed here are merely a few examples of the directions we can pursue, with the range of options expanding as other technologies and breakthroughs continue to develop. Therefore, we reiterate the importance of enhancing education and investing in R&D to prevent the loss of our most valuable asset: talent, to other regions.

The energy crisis that began in 2021 has prompted a swift and decisive response that will position Europe as a leader in the production and use of hydrogen, with a special focus on green hydrogen (from renewable sources). This strategic approach outlines a successful path toward a stable and decarbonized energy future, particularly in industrial applications, heavy transport, and strategic points, and is highly complementary to all previously mentioned aspects.

All these points can have much greater importance for the European economy if they are adopted in conjunction with other types of policies, for example:

• Economic Aid to the Industry in General, and to the Production of This Kind of Equipment, in Particular:

Logically, the ideal scenario is for energy generation and energy efficiency equipment to be manufactured within the region. Significant steps should be taken to encourage the production of energy equipment on our territory, aiming for such desired outcomes as independence from third parties, the creation of employment and wealth, and enhancing our level of competitiveness compared to non-EU countries.

• Increase Speed to Apply Technologies:

The establishment of specific institutions and/or agencies to accelerate the implementation of changes within an appropriate framework is crucial. Similarly, the application of these resources by each member country must be monitored in the most efficient and precise manner.

Additionally, coordinating among many countries with different energy sources, needs, and circumstances is a complex task.

• Fair Competition with the Outside:

Restricting the entry of low-quality products is essential, as it contradicts the environmental principles under discussion. The energy consumption associated with low-quality products, both within our borders and abroad, does not align with an advanced decarbonization policy. Products with a short lifespan have a disproportionate carbon footprint compared to those with a long lifespan. Only the latter are suitable for the circular economy models we have advocated for over the years.

Within this same point, it is necessary to enhance compliance with directives at the certification level. Many poorquality products enter without certifications, with certifications from laboratories of dubious reputation, or even under production requirements less stringent than those established by the European Union, creating situations of injustice and unfair competition.

• Recover International Influence:

The loss of influence in traditionally European-focused regions such as Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and others is another challenge for EU policies. Strengthening alliances will improve access to raw materials necessary for manufacturing products and for the final sale of finished products. One of the great strengths of European industry has been its extensive international market, which facilitates the creation of economies of scale.

• Macro Benchmarking:

During my university years, we studied benchmarking within the corporate field, introduced by the Xerox Group. We must acknowledge that in the new millennium, there are few countries in the world that have established remarkable long-term economic strategies. Why not learn from all of them to improve ours? Being selfcritical can be a practical exercise.

The challenge we face is immense, but it is also exciting to see the new opportunities before us and the many tools we possess to build a better future. We cannot afford to fail.