Concentrating Solar Thermal Energy encompasses Solar Thermal Electricity (STE , also called CSP) and other associated processes, applications and technologies (such as Solar Thermochemical Fuels -STF-, Solar Process Heat, Solar Assisted and Hybrid Desalination, etc) that are called to play a major role for the achievement of energy sustainability in our modern societies due to the following two factors: on the one hand, solar energy provides the highest potential of renewable energy sources to our planet  and, on the other hand, STE is the only renewable technology that can provide dispatchable power in a technically and economically viable way, by means of thermal storage and/or hybridization with for example biomass. The combination of these two factors provides a unique advantage for concentrating solar thermal energy to be a major technological global player in the medium to long term. Nevertheless, and besides the important advancement in the technology occurred during the last years, a significant research effort is still needed to achieve this goal. In this context, the STAGE-STE project intends to engage all major European research institutes, with relevant and recognized activities on STE, into an integrated structure that could successfully achieve the following general objectives:
- Solving, managerial, administrative and financial issues required to convert the STAGE-STE consortium into the natural reference institution for concentrating solar thermal energy research in Europe providing to both the Commission and the Industry a natural gatekeeper for R&D investment and technology transfer in the field. To this aim, the consortium will assess the feasibility of establishing a new entity, with the purpose of better providing the services mentioned above. The feasibility will be assessed in the light of the guiding principles of the EERA, through criteria aiming at identifying expected weaknesses and strengths of the initiative, as well as related opportunities and threats.
- The coordination of a more effective and intense cooperation between the EU research institutions participating in the STAGE-STE IRP plus all other joining the organization at any time, later on, in order to provide complementary contributions which could be required while developing the program.
- Alignment of different STE national research programs, avoiding overlaps and duplications, so that activities funded by national and Commission programmes can be synchronized in order to achieve much better and more effective results (letters of explicit support from the governments of Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Portugal, France, Italy and Cyprus are attached).
- The acceleration of knowledge transfer to the industry in order to maintain and reinforce the current industrial European leadership on STE, in the context of the SET plan  and other initiatives such as SEII, EMIRI, KIC-InnoEnergy, etc.
- The reinforcement and expansion of the joint activities amongst research centres also offering researchers and Industry a comprehensive and complete portfolio of research capabilities, bringing added value to innovation and Industry-driven technology. To this end, close cooperation will be established with, among other, EU-SOLARIS and SFERA II initiatives.
- To also be the reference organization to promote and coordinate the international cooperation in STE research from and to Europe.
The European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) is the basic starting point of the STAGE-STE IRP; it was launched in 2008 and a Joint Programme on Concentrated Solar Power (EERA JP-CSP) has been formally approved in April 2011 . All EU research institutions participating in STAGE-STE are either partners of EERA or, alternatively, have expressed their commitment to formally joint EERA in the near future. Also, all partners of EERA JP-CSP are participating in the STAGE-STE IRP, plus a significant number of additional organizations. Some arguments justifying the relevance of the STAGE-STE IRP are the following:
- Thanks to the support of the European Commission and some EU countries, during the last 15-20 years, EU industry has become the clear global leader in STE technologies. Nevertheless, in spite of this valuable support adequate coordination is lacking due to, among others: i) different national policies and objectives; ii) intermittent support of some national programs; iii) very diverse intensity and budget support of different national programs.
- Achievement of excellent results has to be guaranteed by identifying and assigning the best existing expertise for the execution of specific research projects.
- Optimization in the use of existing resources has to be guaranteed by designating the most adequate labs and facilities for the execution of specific research projects.
- Availability of the required critical mass of research resources and possibilities for economies of scale, from the research point of view, has to be guaranteed anytime.
- Increasing competition from traditional major countries (USA, Australia, etc.) and also from powerful emerging countries (such as China, India, etc.) is considered to require closer collaboration and cooperation among EU research institutions to maintain, in the medium term, the competitiveness of the associated European industry. Moreover, the participation of international partners will help to improve the global competitiveness of STE against other energy technologies.
- Closely related to the previous argument, international collaboration and projection is considered as one of the key issues of the IRP. In fact and despite the important recent achievements of STE technologies in Europe, the future deployment of the technology will largely take place outside EU in world regions with different specific needs and challenges. Therefore, close collaboration with these regions – taking into account their specific research needs – is considered of major relevance for the optimal deployment of STE and associated technologies.
(1) All major European research centres and industry involved into CSP (Concentrating Solar Power) activities are proposing to change this acronym to the considered more adequate of STE (Solar Thermal Electricity)