European climate law must not be an empty shell

by Monica Frassoni, President of the European Alliance to Save Energy

This op-ed was published on Euractiv


European climate law risks being just an empty shell if it does not show the choices needed to reach climate neutrality. Furthermore, this would weaken the whole Green Deal process and diminish its credibility, writes Monica Frassoni.

A too short and modest proposal would risk hijacking the EU transition to climate neutrality. For climate law to live up to the expectations raised by the European Green Deal, the Commission must clearly indicate what is necessary to achieve a climate-neutral EU by 2050: this means giving priority to energy efficiency and renewables.

At the beginning of March, the European Commission is expected to publish its proposal for a European climate law that will aim to provide a clear trajectory to climate neutrality, certainty for investors and policymakers and transparency to ensure proper governance and monitoring of progress.

What looks to be the final output of the proposal, which is likely to be revealed by the EU executive next week, is, however, very disappointing both in terms of clarity and ambition.

We agree with the Commission that the climate law should be as straightforward as possible.

But this does not mean omitting essential elements, like the inclusion of intermediate milestones for 2030 and 2040, entailing the commitment to an increased and mandatory EE and RES targets; integrating the energy efficiency first principle and applying it to all energy planning and investments; promoting policy coherence across the board, including the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies.

Indeed, the Commission should orientate the EU’s action towards what is the fastest and most cost-effective way to reduce emissions by putting the Energy Efficiency First principle (EE1st) at the core of the climate law.

If we want to embrace the 100% renewables-based energy system that a successful and just transition entails, we need to cut our energy demand by half by 2050 in comparison to 2005.

This choice will create new opportunities and jobs; it will facilitate the reduction of EU dependence on imports of crude oil and natural gas and thus increase our energy security.

Energy efficiency includes multiple benefits, which, combined with an increased use of renewables, simultaneously address the major societal, economic and environmental challenges facing the EU energy system today.

Moreover, the climate law should set an intermediate GHG emissions reduction target of at least 55% by 2030. This is in line with recent studies suggesting a 55% or higher target for 2030 is both necessary to remain in line with the 2050 climate neutrality goal and feasible from a technical and economic point of view.

The increased 55% reduction target is also supported by a clear majority of members of the European Parliament.

It is extremely important that European Commission signals to businesses and society at large that it is taking the right measures at the right time to tackle the climate challenges and ensures the competitiveness and sustainability of our economic and social systems.

This would give us, businesses, and other economic players a clear direction to act and to invest in the EU.

The European Green Deal is a particularly positive beginning for the new European Commission, which pledges to address the climate crisis and, by doing so, shapes the future of Europe’s economy and society and leads by example.

Exactly for these reasons, the climate law proposal should meet that same level of ambition. Having a text which looks like an empty shell would weaken the whole Green Deal process and diminish its credibility and transformational impetus. We cannot afford this.

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The biggest innovation in energy is efficiency

By Monica Frassoni, President, European Alliance to Save Energy
Summer 2019

Article published in European Energy Innovation magazine


Our focus on measuring GDP growth has trapped us in a linear view of society. Long term quality of life needs to become the most important measure of global success. With greenhouse-gas emissions increasingly a constraint on current and future improvements in prosperity, we need to become much smarter and more resource efficient.

An energy efficient Europe will foster competitiveness and growth through innovation but also large scale implementation of existing technologies in a range of sectors, each of these contributing to the prosperity, health and wellbeing of Europe’s citizens.

Energy efficiency improvements across all sectors are key to arriving at a climate neutral world by 2050.

The last decade saw an unprecedented increase in awareness of the multiple benefits of energy efficiency. As a result of this, in November 2016 the European Commission proposed making energy efficiency central to a package of legislation known as Clean Energy for All Europeans. Between 2018 and 2019, several pieces of legislation aiming at improving energy efficiency were adopted: the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), the Governance of the Energy Union Regulation, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) and the Internal Market for Electricity Directive and Regulation.

 

Over the next few years national governments, the Commission, local authorities, businesses, civil society and other stakeholders will have to work together to fully implement these new laws.

The many benefits of energy efficiency in a climate neutral world
Energy savings are not only crucial for the transition to a decarbonised economy. They also offer many long-term benefits to offset costs associated with efficiency improvement. Investing in energy efficiency simply makes economic sense.

On average, every €1 invested in energy efficiency saves €3, over the lifespan of a technology. This means that energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to tackle climate change.

The multiple benefits of energy efficiency include economic growth, increased competitiveness, job creation, healthier population and ecosystems, clean air and water, alleviation of energy poverty, and energy security. These benefits, combined with an increased use of renewables, simultaneously address the major societal, economic and environmental challenges facing the EU today.

Energy efficiency and the 1.5°C goal
Climate change is defining our era. If we do not take bold action, we risk missing the time where we can avoid the disastrous consequences of climate change, for people and for the natural systems that support us all. We are at a defining moment.

Energy efficiency is key to achieving the goals set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change and related greenhouse-gas emission reductions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 76% of the European greenhouse gas emission reductions required to keep temperature increases below 1.5°C must come from energy efficiency.

In other words, without implementing bold energy efficiency policies, it will be impossible to reach Europe’s international commitments, maintain Europe’s global climate leadership, and prove the business case for climate change mitigation.

In its Communication “A European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy”, the European Commission said that energy efficiency measures should play a central role in reaching net zero GHG emissions by 2050, reducing energy consumption by as much as half compared to 2005. In order to do so, Energy Efficiency First has to be used across a fast-changing energy system, as the best way to decarbonise our economies.

Europe’s energy landscape is indeed going through profound changes. These are, driven by digitalisation, an increasing share of renewable energy, distributed generation, citizens’ engagement (the creation of ‘prosumers’), electrification, storage, and market integration on both national and European level.

During the next political cycle we have to build a broad alliance of progressive forces, working together to decarbonise society in the interest of citizens and the economy. We have to embrace the digital revolution to deliver energy at the right time, in the right place and at the lowest cost. This will enable consumers to optimise and monetise their energy resources on a peer-to-peer marketplace. We have to unlock the potential for energy savings and carbon-footprint reduction that lies in the EU buildings stock.

We have to promote energy efficiency and renewables working together to provide over 90% of the energy related CO2 emission reductions needed under the Paris Agreement. And we have to unleash energy efficiency improvements in high potential sectors, including through legislative incentives for saving water and promote the water energy nexus across policies.

We need to act now. People, governments and businesses must work together to realise the full potential of energy savings across all industrial sectors, regions and cities. This will allow us to reap the social, economic and environmental benefits of energy efficiency.

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Shaping Europe’s energy future: energy efficiency in the heating sector

Kamila Waciega, Director, Energy, Public Affairs Department, Veolia

As the European Union is currently discussing its path towards decarbonisation, the essential role of boosting energy efficiency to achieve potential goals for carbon and climate neutrality is unequivocal. In the recently published long-term decarbonisation strategy – a ‘A Clean Planet for All’ – energy efficiency is featured prominently in all eight scenarios outlined by the EU executive, and is specified as the first of seven building blocks identified in the communication. Energy efficiency measures are to play a central role in reaching net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050, halving energy consumption compared to 2005, in all relevant sectors, in particular in buildings, industry and transport.

Yet, we need a more specific pathway for addressing a sector that currently represents 50% of the final energy consumption – the heating sector. Given its weight in the overall energy mix, and consequently, its tremendous potential for decarbonisation, the heating sector should be the one where energy efficiency efforts are deployed first and foremost. It means not only addressing decreased final energy demand (through an accelerated and thorough renovation of the existing building stocks and the construction of new facilities following the principles of near zero energy buildings) but also and above all, searching for ways to reduce primary energy consumption on the supply side.

Maximising the deployment of renewable energies will imply a continuous fossil fuels and will necessarily contribute towards further electrification across Europe. The former however, might bring challenges as regards the investment costs linked to the increased transmissions capacities, and even more importantly, to proven and flexible infrastructures such as high efficiency district heating networks.

While the sirens of radical modernity are always enticing, in many European countries, district energy enables the selection of an optimal energy mix for a given territory, integrating local renewable energy sources such as biomass, geothermal energy and intermittent renewables. They are also the way to exploit the excess heat that can be found locally – in industrial units, data centres, sewage systems and incineration infrastructures. According to Heat Roadmap Europe, excess heat recovery from industry and heat from power production could cover at least 25% of the district heat production. Also, high efficiency district heating networks are often equipped with cogeneration, i.e. systems generating simultaneously electricity and heat, making possible an effective sectoral integration (especially when coupled with gas networks) and increasing overall efficiency. The role of modern district heating should be further reflected in our common vision for a climate neutral Europe 2050 as many sources of low carbon energy and efficiency potentials might not be feasible without their use.


This article is a contribution from a EUSEW Partner. All rights reserved. 

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Energy policies as the bridge between “consumers” and “citizens”

Céline Carré, Head of EU Public Affairs, Saint-Gobain

The energy consumer will be a catalyst towards a decentralized and decarbonized energy system as stipulated in the European Commission’s Clean Energy for All Europeans communication. He/she will be able to change energy supplier, monitor and adapt consumption pattern, and produce energy.

But how to reconcile these opportunities with the imperative to meet our European 2050 climate goals and subsequently reduce energy demand? How to reinvent consumption in a way that values the services provided by energy, e.g. mobility, warmth, or light, instead of perpetuating a production-consumption-wastage model?

As a simple value proposition to help consumer take ownership of the transition, energy efficiency is a recipe for aligning short term actions and long-term goals, individual and collective responsibilities, and, not least, rich and poor.

Energy efficiency reduces our import dependency and provides continuous growth and jobs impetus. It helps consumers reduce their bills and quit energy poverty, and it makes our lives healthier. Without it, global energy demand today would be fifty percent higher for buildings only, and the prospect of a net zero carbon society by 2050 would be a foolish dream since electricity demand is set to double in sectors like housing and transport.

The question is how to ensure that energy efficiency plays the role it deserves for consumers to benefit from the transition. The following five guiding concepts suggest ways to overcome the risks of inconsistent signals to consumers.

Align vision and action – Giving visibility regarding what each sector should deliver for the transition is needed for consumers to take the right decisions.

Build lasting support – Eurobarometer polls show that Europeans expect more action at EU level to tackle environmental issues. Political leaders should not wait to leverage this deeper climate awareness into more concrete forms of engagement.

Practice inclusiveness – The renewed support for action is an invitation to put every consumer at the center of the game. Not every home owner can afford an nZEB renovation, and those who cannot need support. But let’s not forget to design adequate policy mixes for all those ready to jump on the renovation train.

Educate – Policy-makers can explain better the complementarity of solutions, concepts such as “efficiency first”, and the cost of non-action. In the same way than a healthy diet does not simply consist in adding some vegetables twice a week, and requires eliminating junk food, a healthy energy system starts with eliminating wastage.

Champion frontrunners: The beauty of the energy transition is that it starts very close to us, e.g. in buildings, with better thermal comfort, light, or acoustic conditions, and air quality. There is room for empowering early movers who can share convincing success stories.

We are in a long journey with no secret short-cuts or exit buttons, but where energy efficiency can deliver the essential benefits that underpin societal buy-in towards our 2050 goals. To get there, our leaders need to be bold, grasp the renewed momentum, practice joined-up thinking and place citizens’ aspirations at the core of their policies.


This article is a contribution from a EUSEW Partner. All rights reserved. 

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Op-ed: The pathway to sustainable cooling

Jürgen Fischer, President, Danfoss Cooling

Jürgen has broad leadership experience from global industrial companies within IT, telecommunication, and machine-building. He is passionate about the digital transformation in the cooling sector and constantly challenges innovation to leverage e.g. the potential of energy storage across Danfoss. In 2008, Jürgen joined Danfoss as Vice President for Industrial Automation, and since 2015, Jürgen Fischer has been President of Danfoss Cooling.

Jürgen holds a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Augsburg. In addition, he holds several degrees from executive education programs at INSEAD and IMD.

As the global temperature rises, sustainable space cooling solutions are more important than ever. The IEA Future of Cooling report estimates that the energy demand for air conditioners is expected to triple by 2050; leading to a space cooling energy growth of 30% in Europe by 2050. The increase in demand for space cooling can put severe pressure on the power grid and challenges to achieve the Paris agreement goals if nothing is done, warns the IEA.

Luckily, the report also estimates a saving potential for today’s space cooling by 50%. If we use the best available technology, we will secure cooling that is both sustainable and provides comfort for millions of citizens.

Success hangs on how quickly we can deploy this technology at scale. Five key areas can make a difference and help the EU Commission delivering actions of the “A Clean Planet for All” strategy:

  1. Roll-out appropriate energy standards and labelling schemes

Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) are the easiest and most efficient way to ensure that only energy efficient cooling devices are placed on the market. The roll-out of labelling schemes across the globe ensures that we use cost-effective technologies. This reduces the total cost of ownership for the devices and benefits of the end-users. However, the use of MEPS needs to be combined with strong market surveillance and enforcement to realize its full potential and ensure all stakeholders are complying with the same rules.

  1. Implement a system approach and secure maintenance of energy efficiency over time

Cooling systems need constant maintenance to ensure that they deliver the promised energy savings over time. According to the European Commission, 75% to 90% of the EU building stock is inefficient. But only 1% of it is renovated each year. There are two priorities for policy makers: one is to accelerate the retrofit of existing buildings and their cooling systems and the other is to improve their maintenance routines over time. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) goes into the right direction and addresses these two priorities. The stronger focus on the renovation of the existing buildings, e.g. via the long-term renovation strategies and on the optimization of technical buildings systems, such as cooling, heating and ventilation systems are identified. The next critical step is to ensure a good implementation of the EPBD at national level.

  1. Combining heating and cooling with renewable energy

With today’s technology we can use supermarkets as giant batteries which allows us to store fluctuating renewable energy sources and balance the energy system. Is heating the future of sustainable cooling? Using excess heat coming from cooling applications, i.e. in supermarkets, we can re-use it to heat our water or warm up our buildings — saving energy and money and reducing the pressure on our energy systems. We need to break down silos to unleash the benefits derived from connectivity across sectors.

  1. Leverage the potential of district cooling

In a district cooling system chilled water is being used to cool down buildings and therefore save energy. Copenhagen is a great example, where a district cooling system was established to service hospitals, office buildings, and schools. The result was win-win, with CO2 emissions reduced by about 65% and consumer savings of 80% on energy costs. Looking at the benefits, it is essential to unlock its full potential with new heating and cooling renewable targets. The new national energy and climate plans must be adopted according to the new Governance Regulation on the Energy Union.

  1. Build a framework for the development of new business models

To unlock the full potential of energy efficiency and meet the future energy demand, we need to enable new business models and demand-side management. Energy storage is the key to unlocking flexibility in our energy systems, which can ultimately turn energy consumers into prosumers. We need policies to encourage the re-use of heat that would otherwise be released into the air.

Together we can deliver “A Clean Planet for all”

Looking at today’s best available technology, the next step needs to be the implementation of ambitious legislation and regulations to increase energy efficiency across sectors. The industry is ready and, together with policymakers and governments, we can unlock the full potential of energy efficiency and open the pathway for a lower energy demand. Let’s join hands across sectors and work towards a cooled and environmental-friendly future together.

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