How Brussels is pointing the direction for the European energy transition
All personal opinions regarding Brexit aside, there’s no denying that the European Commission and European Union has a huge influence over the energy sector. Recent episode of Talking New Energy, the Delta-EE podcast, focuses on what the latest policy coming out of the EU means for the energy transition.
As Frauke Thies, Executive Director at SmartEn, explains, organisations such as SmartEn help their members understand the legislation coming out of the European Union and how it affects them. It is not always easy to help countries understand the influence of the EU, but its influence is paramount. Take the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, for example, which has set the target for member states to achieve nearly zero energy buildings in new builds. In the future this will push towards achieving a renovation of building stock as well.
The Clean Energy Package is also having a huge impact, with two clear results. Firstly, it ensures that active energy consumers and energy communities have the right to self-generate electricity. Secondly, it ensures fair access conditions to networks and cost reflective network tariffs. Both things are not yet a given in many European countries and still need to be implemented but, according to Thies, they will push energy systems towards decentralised solutions with pooled resources.
Despite this huge influence, Delta-EE Director Jon Slowe suggests there are areas which have been forgotten in terms of policy, such as the heating sector.
Federica Sabbati, Secretary General of the EHI (European Heating Industry), argues this is probably due to the fact it’s fragmented and very difficult to regulate. Sabbati emphasises that the European Commission has, however, been working on how to decarbonise both electricity and gas and this has opened a number of options for renewable gases, biomethane and hydrogen.
Further opportunity for the heating sector comes from digitalisation, with a focus on the importance of the energy customer.
Sabbati explains, “there is much more involvement possible from both the side of the consumer and how the consumer can enjoy their comfort at home. But there is also much more interaction with the grid possible with smart devices that can potentially talk with the grid and therefore give signals until we have a role also for thermal storage which is of course one of the big challenges.
“There is the challenge of energy storage, particularly in an increasingly renewables dominated world. You need to store energy but there are technologies from the heating sector that can help mitigate that issue, both in terms of hot water storage or heat pumps electricity-based appliances.”
Frauke Thies adds, “the heating sector together with the transport sector, by the way, offers a great flexibility potential to also help integrate variable renewables in the electricity side.”
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