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Preparing a Future EU Strategy on Energy Sector Integration

Preparing a Future EU Strategy on Energy Sector Integration

May 11, 2020

 

Public consultation paper by Patrick X. van der Meulen & Climate Reality Europe

 

The Climate Reality Project Europe welcomes the public consultation on Preparing a future EU strategy on energy sector integration opened by the European Commission. We truly believe that the European Union has to lead on climate solutions in connection with the implementation of the Paris Agreement and reach carbon neutrality earlier than 2050 as recommended by the IPCC 1.5˚C Report first scenario.

We encourage the European Commission and the Member States to choose a path which excludes locking-in carbon and fossil fuels for the next decades but truly supports a carbon free, healthy and resilient future for Europe while it secures just transition to local communities. Our recommendations and answers:

 

1. What would be the main features of a truly integrated energy system to enable a climate neutral future? Where do you see benefits or synergies? Where do you see the biggest energy efficiency and cost-efficiency potential through system integration?

The energy supply in Europe (and also worldwide) in the 19th and 20th century was characterized by energy generated mainly by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. Beside the fact that we have to burn these resources (and the negative impact on climate) there are also other points that we take into consideration.

The energy supply (based on burning fossil fuels) is not only polluting but also centrally generated and distributed through a limited group of companies and energy suppliers. This creates a big dependency for people, companies and countries, to a very small group of organizations. The energy sources that we use are owned by a small number of companies, instead of countries and people. The business model is based on a one-way transaction and relies upon consistent growth of consumption. The availability is limited and rapidly decreasing worldwide, and further limits to use arise if we take in consideration the negative impacts on climate change as stated in the IPCC report on 1.5˚C  and the goals of the Paris Agreement. And finally, the prices are increasing as a result of availability.

 

2. How will the energy mix and infrastructure of the future (2050) look like in Europe? 

We shift from energy sources that are generated by burning fossil resources from deep below earth’s surface and change to energy sources that are clean and abundantly available, like solar and wind. These sources are available to everyone and not owned by a small group of companies. The 21st century will be characterized by power to and by the people. The energy grid will be decentralized instead of centralized, and the role of the grid (and its grid operators) is to facilitate the consumption and production of energy (two ways). The business model consists the ability to sell and buy energy from its customers (B2B and B2C). Households and businesses will become prosumers of renewable energy and will sell the surplus back to the grid. The effect of this business model is that consumers will become more aware of their energy consumption and production (this will lead to saving on energy consumption). The prices of renewable energy are already decreasing for decades and will continue to do so.

The outcome of this energy transition for Europe will be sustainable, more resilient and cheaper energy supply for all. 

 

3. What are the main barriers to energy system integration that would require to be addressed in your view?

When we complete the energy transition from fossil, centralized and polluting energy to renewable, decentralized and clean energy we have to update our view on the European energy grid. As said, the energy grid of today is centrally organized and based on a one-way direction infrastructure. If consumers and businesses start to produce their own energy (solar and wind mainly) it will affect the infrastructure. 

To facilitate we have to organize three things:

  • Smart Grid Management: We have to understand the consumption and production of energy based on real-time data. With the support of a European 5G network we have access to large amount of data and can get better insight in the grid’s bottlenecks. At these locations (for example more rural areas) we can improve the capacity through data-driven, targeted infrastructure investment.
  • Smaller and decentralized grids: Instead of one large and connected energy grid we can considered changing to multiple smaller and decentralized grids. For example, a smaller village in more rural areas can become a decentralized grid. Based on the consumption and production the grid can support the localized capacity and usage/production patterns at lower cost. An interconnected national or international will be too expensive and non-resilient to facilitate the energy transition.
  • Energy storage: In these smaller and decentralized grids we can add energy storage (batteries or other solutions like hydrogen, electric vehicles etc.) to store and distribute energy. There are moments on a day where there is more energy production instead of consumption (and the other way around). At these moments we need to have the ability to store energy so that we can use it later. The storage solutions need so be locally available (in your house of business) and also available on a larger scale (village or neighbourhood).

The outcome of this new energy grid is a more decentralized, local and better managed grid. It is less dependent from larger grid operators and possible also more cost-effective.

 

More specifically:

•          What role should renewable gases play in the integrated energy system?

We see a limited role for ‘renewable’ gases – mainly in local solutions from certified sustainable biomass only.  We do not support any other resources because of the negative effects on the climate, people and prices. Better, cheaper and sustainable alternatives are already available and ready for massive implementation.

•          What measures should be taken to promote decarbonised gases?

We do not see these technologies as reliable and/or cost effective, therefore we do not support decarbonized gases. The prospect of renewable & decarbonised gases locks us into a business as usual approach to gas infrastructure. 

•          What role should hydrogen play and how its development and deployment could be supported by the EU?

Hydrogen (only if generated by renewable energy) could play a role as an energy storage. But there are many ways to store electricity. For example, electric vehicles, battery packs etc.

•          How can energy markets contribute to a more integrated energy system?

Current energy suppliers should reconsider their role in today’s energy market. They can play an important role in the new energy future if they understand their new role under the Paris Agreement and innovate. This means changing their business model to sell and buy back electricity. This stimulates people and businesses to produce and store energy, sell the surplus to the grid and buy electricity if there is a shortage.

 

Photo by JJ Ying on Unslpash