tIME TO GET HOLISTIC ON ENERGY
The EU needs to stop treating all energy sources as if they were equally desirable when it comes to energy savings. This approach undermines the promotion of renewables, with negative effects for the EU’s energy independence, writes Anders Stouge (deputy director-general of the Danish Energy Association).
The energy sector in Europe is integrating at remarkable speed, through the regional building of interconnectors and market coupling. It is happening in parallel through different parts of the value chain, across sectors and across technologies.
This is a new reality that European lawmakers need to face up to.
The right direction has already been set. When the European Commission in February 2015 presented its Energy Union strategy, it did so with the ambition to adopt a “holistic approach” by integrating energy and climate with “transport, research and innovation, industry, regional, trade, consumer protection, the digital economy … into a cohesive framework”.
This is exactly what is needed to adapt energy regulation today to the energy market of tomorrow. However, despite the importance of the path set out in the Energy Union strategy, it was no more than a strategy.
In the coming months much more important documents will flow from the Berlaymont and land on the desks of lawmakers in the European Parliament and the Council. Legislative proposals on energy efficiency, buildings, renewable energy and the design of the electricity sector will be presented this autumn. This is where the holistic vision and intentions will stand the test of real legislation.
First up is the proposal for a revised Energy Efficiency Directive, expected on 12 October.
To fully realise the potential of energy efficiency measures, we must adopt a new approach to energy savings. An approach that exploits the synergies across sectors: a holistic approach. Considering every form of energy consumption as if they are equally undesirable would be out of line with a holistic approach. Actually, the holistic approach would fully endorse a situation with higher consumption of certain types of energy while the total consumption of energy decreases. One could say “use more to use less”.
Most obvious is the potential for increasing the use of electricity in the heating sector. By the European Commission’s own figures, at least 45 % of electricity will be based on renewable energy in 2030. This means that not only will electricity be less carbon intensive, it will also rely less on imported fuels.
It would therefore be logical to adopt a more nuanced approach to energy saving measures than is currently the case. Under current legislation, member states are required to make energy savings of 1.5 % per year, regardless of what type of energy is saved. For the energy system of tomorrow, this approach is too simplistic. Energy saving measures should, in future, be designed to promote initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reduce import dependency – two of the key horizontal ambitions of the Energy Union.
Ensuring such an approach requires us to look at how energy savings are calculated. In the current Energy Efficiency Directive, energy savings from electricity are multiplied by a factor of 2.5. Originally this was done to account for the energy losses that occur when burning fuels like coal or gas to generate electricity.
However, the calculation also assumes that primary energy goes into generating electricity from wind turbines or solar panels. Not only is this a false assumption, it also contributes to incentivising electricity savings – even if the electricity is to a large part based on renewables and produced with no losses. In other words, the method currently applied when calculating energy savings incentivises savings on renewables.
Thus, every time households and companies use1 kWh of electricity, they are punished by a factor of 2.5, or rewarded with the same factor every time they save electricity. This is a disproportionately large incentive to save electricity, even though it is becoming greener and greener.
This “factor bashing” simply converts into the opposite of what we want. It does not help companies and citizens in the member states to convert their consumption of oil, gas and coal into consumption of green electricity that would otherwise reduce GHG emissions and imports of fossil fuels.
At the same time, we have a Renewable Energy Directive that promotes the building of renewables. But promoting new renewable energy sources, while disproportionally incentivising cutting electricity use from these renewables, does not make a lot of sense.
It is not compatible with the establishment of a holistic Energy Union.
The way energy savings are currently calculated stands in the way not only of enhancing the integration of sectors and technologies in the energy sector. It also undermines the reduction of GHG emissions and the reduction of energy imports.
Thus, as we await the upcoming key proposals from the Commission on the Energy Union, it is important that EU lawmakers consider what type of energy savings deliver the greatest benefit to the European economy, its citizens, the environment and the energy system. That would be a truly holistic approach.
Paris Agreement – Slovakia is on board
150 world leaders at the opening of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris
Photo credits: Hajü Staudt/UNFCCC
After France, Hungary and Austria, Wednesday 22 september Slovakia became the 4th European country to ratify the Paris Agreement after its Parliament voted in favour of the international treaty aimed at fighting climate change. The Paris Agreement seeks to keep the increase in global average temperature by the end of this century to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
The motion for ratification was presented by the Slovak Environment Minister László Sólymos. “I’m happy to see that the Agreement has passed through the ratification process of our Parliament, and I believe that Slovakia will set a positive example for the other EU member states,” Sólymos said after the vote.
“As the country holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU, we’re now able to focus fully on completing the ratification procedure at European level as soon as possible. This is one of our key priorities,” said the minister.
Slovakia aims to coordinate the ratification process so that the EU can finish it by 7 October 2016. To this end, Sólymos has called an extraordinary session of the Environment Council on 30 September in Brussels.
If all EU countries ratify the agreement, the climate conference that opens in Marrakesh, Morocco, on 7 November, could feature the first meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement, including the EU and Slovakia. The parties would thus be involved in decision-making on crucial issues regarding the implementation of the Agreement.
The treaty will enter into force on the 30th day after the date on which at least 55 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, accounting in total for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have deposited their instruments of ratification.
China and the US, which together represent the largest share of global emissions, have already completed this process. The EU is the third largest emitter.
To date, the treaty has been ratified by 29 countries representing over 40% of global emissions. Another 30 countries are set to deposit their instruments of ratification today at a ceremony organised by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Slovak President Andrej Kiska now has to append his signature to Parliament’s approval of the ratification.Kiska represents Slovakia at the current session of the UN General Assembly in New York, where he is seeking to send a strong message later this week and urge countries in which the ratification procedure is still ongoing to complete the ratification process as soon as possible.
For more information about The Paris Agreement and climate change actions in general follow the links: