Europe’s renewable energy industries are getting some reassurance about whether the continent’s renewed focus on energy efficiency will cut into demand for new renewable supply.
A post for the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), republished on The Energy Collective, stresses that the low-carbon transition is creating more than enough business opportunities to go around.
When the European Commission unveiled its Clean Energy for All Europeans package almost a year ago, energy efficiency advocates generally praised the emphasis on efficiency first, but the renewables sector was concerned that focus might “slow down the remarkable expansion of renewable energy in recent years,” RAP staffers Jan Rosenow and Andreas Jahn note. But they say there’s a reason the International Energy Agency describes efficiency as a “first fuel”.
“Just as the energy system cannot be decarbonized through energy efficiency alone, a system with 100% renewables cannot be achieved without extensive energy efficiency,” they write.
“Emission reductions needed to meet climate goals—especially reductions resulting from the electrification of heating and transport—are neither easily achieved through technology, nor economically efficient without substantial energy efficiency gains,” they add, citing a recent Wuppertal Institute study. “For a successful energy transition, we therefore need to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy, while drawing on more energy efficiency and demand response to optimize and reduce demand. Trying to decarbonize wasteful energy consumption by simply subsidizing more and more energy production is an exercise in futility.”
The problem, Rosenow and Jahn write, is that many EU countries have neglected their own energy efficiency potential. “Groups advocating for reduced energy consumption have been less successful than those lobbying for more renewable generation and larger grids,” they write. “This is partly a result of the disparate nature of the energy efficiency industry’s many different technological solutions.”
They point to another study, this one by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), that concludes renewables can cover more ground, faster and at less cost, by moving in tandem with energy efficiency.