The environmental impact of digital is at the heart of the opposition between the protection of the environment and the development of new technologies. Nevertheless, a reconciliation between these two domains is emerging: could digital speed up the energy transition?
It seems that digital technology is already serving the Union’s environmental ambitions. There are many illustrations today: in Bayonne for instance, the ERDF is financing an innovative project to produce three digital models for bathing water quality prediction. The multinational TILOS project, funded by the Horizon 2020 Innovation and Research Program, seeks to optimize the use of renewable energy sources to meet the electricity needs of the island of Tilos in Greece. To achieve this goal, a new hybrid system for the production and storage of green electricity, controlled by a smart digital micro-network, has been developed. The alliance of digital and environmental requirements is therefore a reality that belongs to the European Union to encourage and develop.
The cumulative presence of environmental and digital requirements at the heart of European policies illustrates the complementarity of these areas. Indeed, the European institutions are multiplying the strategies (Digital Single Market, Climate Energy Package), funding opportunities or calls for projects involving digital or environmental issues in multiple sectors. These two themes are therefore profoundly transversal today, which makes their distinction complex. Nevertheless, the challenge of this meeting is significant: using digital technology to support the deployment of environmental requirements at the regional or European level can considerably accelerate the energy transition.
In the face of this challenge, we must not neglect the essential role played by the European Structural Funds. Indeed, both the digital development and the protection of the environment are at the heart of the priorities of the funds’ programs and in particular the ERDF. By financing local or inter-regional projects, which use digital innovations to develop sustainable and intelligent management of resources, the Structural Funds enable the concrete realization of the energy transition. The meeting between digital and environmental concerns is therefore fully realized at the local level. To that extent, it is therefore essential to closely follow the reflections that are taking place on the next 2020 programming and on the place that these two themes will occupy in the priorities of the Structural Funds.