In order to accomplish the Green Deal and its enshrined target of EU climate neutrality by 2050, it is important that the European energy system too makes a vital contribution. To achieve this, the European Commission set out two strategies on 8 July 2020, which set the agenda as to make the energy system more efficient over the coming years.
The Green Deal is one of the new EU Commission’s key focus areas, which aims at no longer emitting any net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To achieve this, the Commission announced no fewer than 47 follow-up measures in December 2019. Two of these measures are the Energy System Integration Strategy and the Hydrogen Strategy, which the Commission set out before its 2020 summer break.
Based on the EU System Integration Strategy, the Commission attempts to better connect all sectors, thereby gaining a holistic overview of the energy supply in Europe. The objective is the better use of synergies between different energy sources, infrastructures and consumption sectors. This will also lead to a significantly increasing energy efficiency. Until now, 29 % of the industrial energy demand alone has been lost as waste heat. District heating systems could be used for example, to make this energy available to heat buildings, thereby replacing fossil fuels. Parallel to this, Europe’s dependence on oil and gas imports would be reduced. The Commission plans to develop guidelines as to how the principle “Putting energy efficiency first” should be applied in case of national and European legislation.
A second target of the strategy is the development of electrification as electricity from renewable energy sources will play a significant role in the energy system of the future. According to calculations by the Commission, in particular the offshore wind generation has a great potential, which needs to be exploited more. By using heat pumps for example, the share of renewable energies can also be increased in the building sector. With regard to private households, the Commission aims at increasing the share of electricity to cover the heating demand from 50 to 70 % by 2050. Another aspect is the significance of electromobility in the transport sector as electric vehicles shall increasingly be used as batteries for surpluses from the electricity generation of renewable energy sources. Apart from that, the Commission has set the target to install up one million charging points for electric vehicles in the EU by 2025. The Commission has already launched a Consultation to amend the Energy Efficiency Directive as well as the Renewable Energy Directive.
A third focus of Energy System Integration Strategy is on the promotion of low carbon fuels, such as sustainable biogas, biomethane, biofuels or low carbon hydrogen. These shall be a key component in energy-intensive sectors, for example in industrial processes, but also in aviation and maritime transport, where there are hardly and decarbonisation alternatives. The separate Hydrogen Strategy outlines the framework for developing a hydrogen economy in Europe with focus on renewable hydrogen. In view of the limited resources of renewable energy, this approach is to be welcomed.
Even though the Commission pledges to put consumers at the centre of its energy policy, its concrete announcements are mainly restricted to easier accessible information and a new information campaign. Admittedly, it recognises the need for action regarding consumer rights for the gas and district heating sector; however, as a key measure it only a announces the strengthening of rights for gas customers within the scope of a new legal framework for the gas sector for 2021. There are no concrete measures for the local and district heat sector, even though – as research by the Chamber of Labour has shown - in particular in this sector, the rights of consumers are less prevalent than of those in the electricity and gas sector.
Apart from that, the AK believes that it is of vital importance to review and to consider distribution-policy effects with regard to climate and energy-policy measures. Paying attention to social aspects and the fair distribution of the costs and the benefit of measures are important factors to deal with the climate crisis. The energy transition can only succeed if the creation of a two-tier energy society is being avoided: under no circumstances it can be allowed that only financially and technically well-equipped households benefit from the energy transition and that all other households bear the costs. On the contrary, concrete measures against energy poverty – both at national and European level – are needed. These include improved accessibility of grants for thermal renovation or the exchange of radiators for energy-poor households, binding basic supply models as well as general safeguarding provisions for consumers in the energy sector.