Power to the people: Electrification is a winning strategy for Europe

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.com PLC.

Electric cars line up in Oslo for the final stage of 2011's 'Zero Rally'. [Zero Emission/ Flickr]

As Europe gets ready for the next stage in the battle against climate change, electricity holds a vast potential that still lies untapped today, writes Kristian Ruby.

Kristian Ruby is secretary general of EURELECTRIC. On 19 April, its stakeholder event ‘Power to the People- Electrification of the European Economy’ will be held from 13:30 at The Egg in Brussels. Keynote speakers include Vattenfall CEO Magnus Hall and Jos Delbeke, Director General of DG Climate at the European Commission. You can register for the event here.

Capitalising on the value of electricity will be crucial to decarbonising the buildings and transport sectors that still account for two thirds of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions.

With its emissions capped under the EU ETS, the electricity sector is on a predictable trajectory towards clean and green.

Investments should therefore be directed into electric technologies and sector-coupling as there are effectively few alternatives and no ‘waiting’ time for alternative decarbonisation infrastructure to be developed and implemented.

So, let other sectors benefit from the investments of the power sector to decarbonise. Let other sectors leverage on the efforts already made.

To some extent, this is already happening. There are already many examples of how electrification of these sectors is picking up.

In Norway, we are seeing record deployment of electric vehicles, as well as the world’s first full electric car ferry cruising daily in the fjords.

In Croatia, electricity utility HEP has developed a comprehensive software platform that enables inter-operability and deployment of EV infrastructure.

And in Ireland, Germany and Latvia, energy utility SSE and heating and cooling manufacturer Glen Dimplex are demonstrating how household-level energy storage with advanced ICT can help heat homes with clean power and bring benefits to all market participants.

The value of electricity goes beyond decarbonisation. Electricity in transport and heating will also reduce air pollution in cities. It will strengthen security of supply and help empower Europe’s energy customers. Last, but not least, it is a key prerequisite for the digital transformation, that is needed to ensure future industrial competitiveness for Europe.

Delivering on the EU climate and energy objectives requires massive investments across the existing value chain as well as in new areas. A comprehensive policy approach with incentives and protection for investors is therefore needed. The Clean Energy Package is a good starting point. But it needs further work. And it is not the game changer we need in order to deliver on large-scale electrification of the European economy.

So how do we harvest the full potential of electricity for European society? On Wednesday 19 April we gather experts and stakeholders from across the continent to discuss this and refine our recommendations for policy makers. Because at EURELECTRIC, we are in no doubt: clean energy for all Europeans is all about power to the people!