Decarbonisation not just an option but an opportunity, insist energy experts

Energy experts discussed decarbonisation and electricity markets at an EFE event in Madrid in June. [EFEforum Energía]

This article is part of our special report Electricity market reform: A European tour.

Decarbonising the economy and energy production is now a necessity for states and companies, although it can also be a source of business opportunities and innovation, according to experts. EURACTIV’s Spanish partner reports.

Spanish and foreign experts insisted at an EFEfórum Energy debate in June that member states must prioritise interconnectors, in order to leverage the potential of energy sources like renewables, as well as making sure the process is fully democratic.

Environmental director of EFE Arturo Larena pointed out the changes that decarbonisation will mean for society in general, a whole revolution from the economic, environmental and social point of view.

“Energy is a transversal topic, with implications in our everyday life and the way in which we produce and consume is going to go through a radical change in the following years,” he explained

Energy transition measures

All the participants referred to the set of clean energy laws, or Winter Package, initiated by the European Commission, although they disagreed about the different capacity of the Member States to implement them and the different speeds and level of awareness within the EU.

In this regard, EUCERS energy expert Frank Umbach declared that “we have to take into account how fast we should go, but also how fast we can go”, but added that the German model cannot be extrapolated to others and suffers from some weaknesses, one of them being transport networks.

Filip Grzegorczyk, vice president of Polish electricity association PKEE, underlined the effort that Poland has made to reduce the dependence on coal (it has gone from 99% to 80%) and acknowledged the need to decarbonise and promote renewable energies, but in a balanced and coherent way.

Endesa’s representative pointed out that companies are capable of producing renewable energy at a very competitive cost, but they still lack the “firmness and flexibility” that countries need. He added that it is still essential that other forms of energy, like thermal generation, act as “an insurance”.

Transformation

Juan José Alba said that these options should be replaced “and we are able to see on the horizon some solutions, such as interconnections, however, they have a high cost”. He added that companies have often decided to keep “what we already have” even though renewable capacity is increasing.

Alba advocated for a “full” reorganisation of the tax and tariff system to avoid the current situation in which more than 50% of bills paid by the citizens are taxes, and also to penalise the use of the most polluting fuels.

“We are facing something that requires an enormous transformation and at the same time an enormous opportunity; this sector generates a lot of money, but this does not mean that the energy transition has to cost us money,” he explained.

Ferran Tarradellas, the Commission’s head of representation in Spain, recalled that Europe has a problem with external energy dependence that costs €40 billion each year and also spoke in favour of interconnections between member states.

The cost of renewable energy

Renewable energy costs “have dropped down, because we know how to do them better than anyone else and because our continental nature allows us to join forces for common objectives with a higher chance of success”, he insisted.

According to the EU official, citizens must have access to information “in real time, of the real price” of electricity, to install cheaper consumer technologies or put their own generated energy on the network.

Tarradellas also emphasised the fact that the EU has to guarantee citizens “the right to consume, store, generate and sell their own energy without discriminatory prices”.

Cote Romero, founder of Ecooo, believes that the Winter Package is insufficient, “but it is a fabulous tool and far exceeds the objectives of many states” and widely “includes the directives of renewables and puts the focus on consumers”.

“Today we cannot deny the economic competitiveness of renewable energies, although an electricity market based solely on these energies needs the support of other types of energy,” he warned.

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