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‘Efficiency first’ is top priority of draft EU energy strategy

By District Energy posted 07-09-2020 10:31




Efficiency must be at the core of Europe’s energy policy, the European Commission says in a draft policy document outlining its vision of a more agile, low-carbon energy system powered chiefly by renewable electricity.

With its energy system integration strategy, the Commission hopes to achieve decarbonisation at the lowest possible cost by using the relative strengths of different energy carriers – whether electricity, gas or heat.

“Today’s energy system is still built on several parallel, vertical energy value chains, which rigidly link specific energy resources with specific end-use sectors,” the Commission says in its draft ‘strategy for energy system integration,’ due to be presented on Wednesday (8 July).

“Europe’s energy future must be more resource-efficient, rely on an ever-growing share of renewable energies, integrate different energy carriers flexibly and be further distributed across space,” the document says.

The policy strategy, which is still subject to change, does not contain legislative proposals; those will come up mainly next year, with a batch of new legislation expected in June.

However, it does highlight a revolutionary vision for the “planning and operation of the energy system as a whole,” which the Commission boils down to three things:

A more ‘circular’ energy system, with energy efficiency at its core, greater direct electrification of end-use sectors, and
using renewable and low-carbon fuels, including hydrogen, for end-use applications like cement or steelmaking where direct heating or electrification are not feasible.

Different energy carriers – electricity, gas and heat – can each play to their strengths and should be allowed to flow seamlessly between households, transport and industry whenever they enable deeper decarbonisation at least cost.

That way, “synergies” between different energy sectors will bring down the costs of reaching the EU’s 2050 objective of achieving climate neutrality, the EU executive says.

Facilitating cross-sectoral flows of energy will also require infrastructure changes. For example the construction of more district heating systems, which provide entire neighbourhoods with hot water and can be connected to local industrial waste heat sources.

Also at a large-scale, system integration calls for a “holistic approach” to infrastructure planning, with more “physical links” between energy carriers, infrastructure and end-use sectors.