Europe leading the energy transition

Giusy Massaro

The energy transition – that is, the shift to the exclusive use of renewable sources – has been a theme of great interest for all governments in recent years. This is due to the need to mitigate climate change.

In line with the European Green Deal – the strategy launched in December 2019 to make energy production and the lifestyle of European citizen more sustainable and less harmful to the environment – the European Union has taken major steps over the last years.

Last week, during its symposium in Brussels, I-Com presented the study entitled Eu’s Path to Competitiveness. How digital, energy and health can lead the way forward”. The report highlights how, in the energy field, the EU’s commitment to a zero environmental impact society is evident from the analysis of the policies undertaken in recent years. Three main results emerge:

  1. Europe is the region of the world that has had the biggest reduction in CO2 emissions globally in recent decades. Indeed, in 2020 alone, even considering the pandemic crisis that inevitably affected the amount of emissions, EU CO2 emissions were 31% lower than in 1990, and 10% lower than for the previous year.
  2. The EU is also the area with the greatest weight of renewables in the energy mix. In 2020, clean energy accounted for a demand share of over 22%, over the EU target of 20%.
  3. Europe represents only 8% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, which is a much lower share than North America and Asia.

Therefore, in the fight against climate change, the European Union can undoubtedly assume the role as the promoter for the transition, at least compared to the other major world economies. Whilst the EU states are increasing their efforts towards decarbonisation, other large economies are continuing to focus heavily on fossil fuels. For example, the recent Chinese President’s statement regarding no more investments in coal-fired power plants outside national borders clashes with the forecast, in the five-year plan approved by the Beijing government in early 2021, of further expansion in the use of coal for domestic energy production.

Another very important aspect, that the report highlights, concerns the need to carry out a balanced energy transition. In recent years, European energy dependence has steadily increased from 56% in 2000, to 58.2% in 2018, up to 60.6% recorded in 2019 (latest data available). With this in mind, however, the transition must not expose MSs to the risk of energy poverty, which could trigger turning back to fossil fuels and, thus, nullifying all the efforts made up to now.

In addition, in order to steer the economic recovery in the green direction, in February 2021, the regulation relating to the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) was published. As a key tool of the NextGenerationEU package, which aims at mitigating the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 crisis, it imposed a contribution to the green transition in order to address one of the long-term challenges of the Union. Within the EU, the country allocating the largest share of its funds to the ecological transition is Luxembourg (60% of the available resources), followed by Denmark (59.6%) and Belgium (51.7%), well above the minimum required of 37%.

After 2021’s huge rollout and focus on energy transition, and all the massive increases in energy costs, we can only hope that 2022 will become the year when a new energy season can really take hold.

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