Europe is leading the world’s major economies in enshrining climate pledges into law, but member states will fall short of achieving the targets based on draft action plans, the EU Commission said this week.
One of the key policy gaps is to establish a business case for rewarding energy efficiency and flexible demand side management. The main conclusion of a meeting held in Brussels this week as part of EU Sustainable Energy week was that the technology is available, but the policy framework does not foster behaviour change at the retail level.
“We need to create a market that stimulates the use of smart appliances, for example by adapting contractual arrangements between users and utilities to include dynamic pricing for electricity or rebate schemes when users provide flexibility to the electricity markets. By taking a system approach, heat recovery should be incentivised, for example using waste heat from refrigeration systems to heat water. , says Andrea Voigt, Director General of heating and cooling industry group the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), who chaired this week’s meeting. “Flexibility still has no value today. The products are there but the market is not yet,” she tells Engerati.
Digitalisation has the potential to increase energy efficiency by 67% by 2050 if maximised efficiently and if societal trends are addressed, or just by 32% in a scenario where this is not the case, according to a report from a study by the Fraunhofer Institute for System and Innovation Research ISI, commissioned by the Coalition for Energy Savings, who had representatives speaking at this week’s event.
The EU’s recently published Clean Energy Package provides a solid basis – for example via the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive – which should help trigger a wider system approach, Voigt says. But now it is an implementation issue at the national level.
However, in national energy and climate action plans drafted by member states to comply with the Paris climate agreement, heating is only mentioned in relation to renewables but there is very little regarding heating and cooling efficiency. Given the EU’s recommendation as part of the Clean Energy Package that energy efficiency should be the first pillar of any sustainable energy approach, the issue should have moved further up the agenda, Voigt says.
Global progress on energy efficiency is slowing, according to the IEA. The growth rate in energy demand doubled in 2018 compared with the average growth since 2010, while global carbon emissions were up nearly 2% last year. The IEA is also developing an online resource on digitalisation and energy efficiency as part of its Global Exchange for Energy Efficiency, which will be launched during the 4th annual Global Conference on Energy Efficiency in Dublin, Ireland on 24th and 25th June.
The EPEE earlier this month held its third EUREKA conference together with the European Ventilation Industry Association (EVIA) to encourage industry stakeholders to think outside of the box and engage with a broad range of stakeholders including policymakers, academia, civil society and students. Several main themes emerged at the conference such as the importance of taking an integrated, system level approach, the need of new business models for example by giving a value to flexibility to facilitate the transition to renewable energies, by valorising thermal energy to encourage heat recovery and by placing the concept of service instead of products at the heart of the company.
Final NCEPs from EU member states for the period from 2021 to 2030 are due by the end of this year.