The future’s looking clean. At least in the European Union (EU), where the European Commission has released its new Clean Energy Package designed to set a vision for what will constitute a low-carbon future for the whole of Europe.
With the Paris Agreement as a backdrop, along with the EU’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030, the new package promises to create jobs and pave the way for new technologies.
So, what does it have to say, exactly?
‘Clean energy for all Europeans’ – as the package is called – does what it says on the tin, giving consumers and business the tools and the market environment to be green.
Beyond simply adapting to the energy transition, the commission wants the EU to lead the way, and the package has three main goals: putting energy efficiency first; achieving global leadership in renewable energies; and providing a fair deal for consumers.
The idea is to show that smart money should be put on the clean energy transition. After all, clean energy attracted global investment of over €300 billion in 2015. Perks from a green energy sector include a boost to the local economy, job creation and growth.
So, how does the package work in practice?
Energy efficiency is a big deal – after all, the Commission notes that the cheapest and cleanest energy is that which isn’t produced. But energy efficiency of what, exactly? Well, in particular, buildings and products.
Buildings are heavy on the energy front, sapping up 40 per cent of Europe’s consumption. Many were built before energy performance standards were a ‘thing’, and the rate for renovation is only about one per cent a year. Energy efficiency should boost this rate, while creating a building renovation market for small and medium sized companies worth €80 to €120 billion by 2030.
Just this sector alone will make huge savings with energy efficiency, and to make it happen at a greater scale, a smart finance for smart buildings initiative will help unlock private financing.
As for businesses, it’s a no brainer: energy efficiency cuts costs, helping them to improve their competitiveness, and it’s also a cost effective way to ensure energy security.
Fair deal for consumers
Energy efficiency essentially means more jobs and money, and also addresses social imbalances, pulling people out of energy poverty, while positively impacting on health, such as by improving air quality and alleviating dampness. Schemes to insulate walls or replace inefficient windows should help to cut energy bills for consumers.
The EU’s ecodesign measures mean that only energy efficient appliances can be sold throughout the bloc, reducing emissions and waste, while the EU energy labeling system gives consumers a heads up about their energy appliances. Bringing the two together will deliver nearly half of the EU’s energy savings and a quarter of the emissions reduction targets for 2020. And it’s good news for those using only energy efficient products in their homes; they could save an average of €500 every year on their energy bills by the end of the decade.
And there are other perks for consumers. Improved management of digital customer information will make billing and changing suppliers a breeze. They can request a smart meter from their energy supplier, and new tech will help them use more energy when it’s cheap, and cut consumption when prices are high. Better yet, consumers may even be able to produce and sell their own electricity.
World leaders in renewables
Europe is already a pretty good place for renewables, what with the continent being the global leader in wind energy, and its renewable energy sector employing over a million people in 2014. To take it further, in 2030, half of the EU's electricity generation will come from renewables, and the electricity should be completely carbon-free 20 years after that. Innovative tech will grow this sector, and the aim is to bring products to market more rapidly.
There’s a particular focus on the EU’s transport, which is still fossil fuel hungry. Faster deployment of advanced biofuels and electricity will help clean up Europe’s planes, ships and vehicles.
There are several other cogs needed to transition into clean energy, including bringing digitalisation forward, attracting additional investments by setting the right incentives, and collaboration between government, citizens and stakeholders. But the roadmap looks positive.
“Europe is on the brink of a clean energy revolution. And just as we did in Paris, we can only get this right if we work together,” says commissioner for climate action and energy, Miguel Arias Cañete. “With these proposals, the Commission has cleared the way to a more competitive, modern and cleaner energy system. Now we count on European Parliament and our Member States to make it a reality."
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