CAN THE ENERGY UNION BECOME A GROWTH ENGINE FOR EUROPE?
The Energy Union is an unparalleled opportunity for the EU to boost energy its efficiency, cut imports and create money for consumers. To achieve this, we must unlock the potential of smart systems and embrace digitalisation, writes Anton Koller.
Anton Koller is the president of district energy at Danfoss.
Not long ago a discussion around climate, energy and the economy would quickly have ended up in a straight choice between one and the other. Who would have argued that you could fight climate change, get cheaper and cleaner energy, and have economic growth all at the same time?
Today we know that we don’t have to choose. Decarbonising our energy doesn’t mean giving up growth. Sustainable and smart cities and buildings of the future will emerge from a holistic approach to energy and the climate. And so will green growth. This is what the Energy Union is about.
Where are we on this path? The State of the Energy Union shows a mixed picture. We have made progress on the way to reaching our 2020 energy and climate targets, but a lot still needs to be done, especially in order to make our buildings more energy efficient and to decarbonise our heating supply. If we want to succeed, we need to address these challenges now.
We have almost reached our target to improve energy efficiency by 20% by 2020. And we have succeeded in decoupling energy from growth. While our energy intensity has decreased, our economy has grown. Energy efficiency has also helped 22 member states to reduce their dependency on energy imports, and thus to increase their energy security. The European Commission showed in its 2016 impact assessment that for every percentage point gained in energy efficiency, gas imports fall by 4%.
Read more: Can the Energy Union become a growth engine for Europe?
UN CLIMATE DEAL WILL STOP EU IGNORING ENERGY EFFICIENCY, SAYS COMMISSION
New EU energy efficiency laws will not be dogged by the problems of the past because businesses leaders and civil society have bought into the need to fight climate change, the European Commission’s Energy Union chief said yesterday (1 February).
Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said that the Paris Agreement to cap global warming had brought real momentum behind the shift to a low-carbon economy. The landmark deal, which entered into force last month, sets a two degree limit on temperature increases.
EU legislation to increase energy efficiency is already on the table. Both the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive were revised last year by the Commission and await final adoption by EU legislators.
The new laws must be scrutinised, amended and agreed by the European Parliament and member states before they can become law. “2017 will be the year of implementation,” Šefčovič said in Brussels.
But the previous versions of both directives were notable for not being properly put onto national law books and for poor enforcement.
In March 2015, the Commission was forced to hit every member state with the exception of Malta with legal action. Belgium, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Finland, Poland and Austria have all faced fines for not fully transposing the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive into national law.
“What I think has changed is that we have the Paris Agreement that was supported strongly by the mayors, the city leaders but also businesses,” said Šefčovič.
“I was really impressed with how the businesses are taking this seriously. We have new technologies, we have strong support at a local level and I think that now energy efficiency is seen as one of the best tools to fight energy poverty.”
Read more: UN climate deal will stop EU ignoring energy efficiency, says Commission