Opinion - 07/November/2019

Prioritise electrification for efficient energy transition

EU leaders need to get serious about electrification if Europe is to decarbonise in line with the commitments of the Paris climate agreement and bring about economic benefits for consumers, say signatories of The Electrification Alliance, launched in Brussels this week

Electricity makes up only 24% of the energy consumed in Europe. Heating, cooling and transport remain massively powered by fossil fuels


Voters in the May 2019 European elections made it clear climate change is the top challenge to handle at an EU level and that there is broad support across the continent for an ambitious clean energy transition that leaves no country and no citizen behind. European Commission President-designate Ursula von der Leyen got the message, staking her presidency on a Green Deal that gets our economy to carbon neutrality by 2050. But to deliver this vision, she now needs to make some important decisions and get serious about electrification.

Decarbonising our energy supply quickly is essential for Europe to stand a chance in reaching carbon neutrality three decades from now. We have done relatively well so far at decarbonising power generation and this is only the beginning. Yet, electricity makes up just 24% of the energy we consume today in Europe. Heating, cooling and transport remain massively powered by fossil fuels.

Getting serious about climate change means first and foremost getting serious about electrification. It is the number one solution for Europe’s decarbonisation being cost effective and energy efficient.



Why should we prioritise electrification?

Because electrification boosts economic prosperity. Fuel imports cost EU citizens more than €5 billion a week. Replacing fossil fuels with clean and renewables-based electricity brings serious cost savings to European consumers.

Because electrification empowers consumers. With digitalisation, consumers can directly manage their energy supply and demand patterns, and eventually save money.

Because electrification brings jobs and growth. Investing in an industrial ecosystem with decarbonised, smart and affordable electricity solutions benefits local economies and drives the creation of high-skilled jobs.

Because electrification is good for our health. Substituting fossil fuels in transport and heating with decarbonised electricity directly improves local air quality and our life in general.


Where do we go from here?

We need to exercise scrutiny over the design and implementation of the European Green Deal.

To achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, investments in electricity grids, smart solutions and renewable energy generation must increase already today.

The European Green Deal must do at least four things to mainstream electrification in heating and cooling, transport and industry:

  • Put clean and renewables-based electrification at the heart of Europe’s industrial strategy. The strategy should serve as a springboard for Europe’s industrial leadership in renewables-based, decarbonised and digital electricity solutions including electrolysers;
  • Review EU energy infrastructure policies to ensure that investments in energy networks support the transition to a climate neutral economy, in particular smart electricity grids and smart buildings, instead of fossil fuel infrastructure;
  • Modernise the EU energy taxation regime to speed up the decarbonisation of power consumption and increase the uptake of clean electricity in end-use sectors;
  • Secure research and innovation funding for direct and indirect electrification that accelerate a cost-effective transition in hard-to-abate sectors, notably through an increase of the Horizon Europe budget to €120 billion. A budget of €77 billion is set aside to fund research and innovation for the period 2014-2020.

Taking action now on these four points will ensure that the right policies are in place for the European Green Deal, and the needed investments happen on time. This is how European citizens and our economy will reap the full benefits brought by future-proof electrification across sectors.


The Electrification Alliance

Giorgia Concas, Secretary General, European Association of Electrical Contractors

Philippe Vangeel, Secretary General, European Association of Electromobility

Kristian Ruby, Secretary General, Eurelectric

Laurence Tubiana, CEO, European Climate Foundation

Bernard Respaut, Chief Executive, European Copper Institute

Thomas Nowak, Secretary General, European Heat Pump Association

Frauke Thies, Executive Director, smartEn

Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO, SolarPower Europe

Giles Dickson, CEO, WindEurope

PHOTO Eurelectric

The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of FORESIGHT Climate & Energy

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