Both the energy and the information and communications technology (ICT) sectors are undergoing tremendous changes in Europe. The European Union wants to be the world leader when it comes to renewable energy, but it faces hurdles. Communications technologies are being shaped by European policymakers as much as it is by technical experts—which brings its own set of challenges.
That’s where the IEEE European Public Policy Initiative (EPPI) comes in. Since 2013, the initiative has been expanding the dialogue between the European engineering community and public authorities to help technologists share their expertise and concerns. The EPPI also provides technologists’ input on matters relating to IEEE’s fields of interest. The initiative has two working groups—one on energy and the other on ICT—that are composed of experts who are IEEE volunteers.
The initiative has made significant progress, according to IEEE Senior Member Marko Delimar, the EPPI team leader.
“Officials from the EU and the European Commission [EC] now see IEEE as a European and global resource and have welcomed greater engagement,” Delimar says. This, in part, is the result of two summits the initiative organized. One on sustainable green energy, was held in November 2015. The other, on Internet governance, took place in 2014.
“EPPI is working to raise the visibility of policy matters within IEEE as well,” he says. “For example, we helped identify speakers from the European Commission for the recent IEEE EnergyCon.”
Each working group issues monthly news bulletins, reporting on recent EU policy developments in its area, and IEEE encourages members to use those resources. Here are highlights of some recent reports:
The EU member states agreed in January to invest €217 million in key trans-European energy infrastructure projects, mainly in central and southeastern Europe.
Under the Renewable Energy Directive, countries need to generate 23 percentage of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. Some EU countries have exceeded their 2020 objectives including Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, and Sweden. Wind power is a bit more than 42 percent of the total electricity consumption in Denmark—the highest such percentage in the world.
The European Technology and Innovation Platform on Renewable Heating and Cooling in February provided an input paper to the EC’s “Develop New Materials and Technologies for Energy Efficiency Solutions for Buildings” report and determined that it had failed to highlight that 80 percent of buildings are still using fossil fuels for heating—which makes it difficult for the EU to achieve 2030 and 2050 decarbonization targets.
After four years of negotiations, the EU tightened its rules on data protection, updating legislation written in 1995. Before the new rules went into effect, companies faced different, sometimes conflicting guidelines. In exchange for tighter regulation and higher sanctions, businesses should benefit from less bureaucracy and greater legal certainty. Or at least that was the plan. In reality, the sanctions have gotten more expensive, with fines jumping to 4 percent of a retailer’s global turnover for egregious breaches or enough to wipe out the annual profits of a typical retailer. Companies also are now also required to report data breaches within three days.
In February, the EC and the United States agreed on a new framework for transatlantic data flows. The new agreement, the EU-US Privacy Shield, is designed to protect the fundamental rights of Europeans where their data is transferred to the United States and ensure legal certainty for businesses. The new laws, which require stronger obligations from U.S. companies to protect Europeans’ data, call for better monitoring by the U.S. Department of Commerce and Federal Trade Commission, including cooperation with the European data protection authorities.
A white paper published by the EC shows how 5G will transform EU manufacturing, health, energy, automotive, media and entertainment sectors.