If you’ve tuned into the Leaders in Cleantech podcast, chances are you’re pretty clued up in the cleantech and energy world, far more than most of the global population and, dare I say it, the world’s governments. In Episode 87: ‘Cleantech for Europe’, I chat to Jules Besnainou, Executive Director of Cleantech for Europe, a Bill Gates-backed initiative aiming to help the European Union (EU) lead the race to net zero by building bridges between cleantech and policy leaders. 

From heading up one of the globe’s leading ‘underground’ cleantech and net zero movements – and by underground, I mean non-governmental with less exposure – his insight into the sector’s progress in relation to wider policy and regulation is unparalleled.

While 2021 was an all-round record year for EU cleantech with €11 billion invested in cleantech VC, there is a clear disconnect between what governments and their ministers understand compared to what is actually happening. Government bodies and policymakers hold the ‘key’ to achieving net zero with their ability to make or break regulation, so it’s up to the rest of us to make sure they’re kept informed. 

Changing the rules

As it stands, overall regulatory frameworks (worldwide, not just EU) are not fit for purpose, nor for innovation. Various policies, proposals, parameters and boundaries around energy generation, e-mobility, building, and even corporate functions, are in place, some for good reason, but now stand as primary obstacles to getting to where we need to be. 

And even if they are accessible, they aren’t harmonised. For example, standards for the concrete and cement industry vary from country to country, making it nigh on impossible to correlate. If the EU members aren’t aligned, how can we expect to achieve the same goal? 

It’s important we stand for making the EU’s broader framework more innovation- and progression-friendly, paving a way for a smooth-sailing journey to net zero. Germany’s taken the leap already, with its recently announced Easter Package, which rewrites energy policy to double onshore wind capacity, triple the pace of the transition, quadruple offshore wind and solar generation, and ultimately become completely non-reliant on Russian energy and resources. Proof that bridging the gap between the EU’s cleantech community and the policymakers and getting the ear of the ‘important people’, leads to great change.

Say it louder for the people in the back

While the necessary changes that need to be made may seem obvious to us, the same can’t be said for much of the population, who don’t possess in-depth sector knowledge, nor understand the consequences. It can be difficult for anyone outside of the nascent cleantech, clean energy, and e-mobility sectors to keep up with the progress.

As it stands, the larger firms and giants of the world have the ear of the governments and corporations. Smaller organisations, with limited time and budgets, don’t have the means to lobby ministers, so the thousands of voices of Europe’s start-ups and scaleups are just not filtering through to Brussels. Organisations like Cleantech for Europe, Hyperion, and many others on the ground, are working ‘under the surface’ to unite and get their attention. 

Scaling EU cleantech innovation, investing in clean VC initiatives, and creating high-quality, sustainable, and meaningful jobs are all part of the journey to a zero-carbon future. We just need to up the ante on getting the ‘important people’ educated and more involved, so a harmonised framework can put a seal on our efforts.