Industry groups representing sectors as varied as wind and solar power, fuel cell batteries, copper and heat pumps, have clubbed together to launch the Electrification Alliance, with the hope that electricity will be recognised as the main energy carrier in Europe’s decarbonisation drive.
Decarbonising Europe’s economy is vital if the Paris Agreement target of keeping global warming below two degrees is to be met.
At an event on Friday (23 June) in Brussels, various associations came together to launch the Electrification Alliance, which hopes electricity will be recognised as the best chance of decarbonising Europe efficiently and on time.
The alliance is made up of the Union of the electricity industry (Eurelectric), SolarPower Europe, WindEurope, the European Copper Institute, the European Heat Pump Association, and the European association for battery, hybrid and fuel cell electric vehicles (AVERE).
It claims that, as electricity rids itself of fossils fuels like coal, it will reveal its “true value” in leading an “efficient” decarbonisation of the European economy.
Electricity itself is not a fuel source, it is a vector for other fuels. Electric cars, for example, are only as environmentally friendly as the source on the other end of the charging cable.
Recognising this, the Alliance’s declaration insists it will support reductions in carbon intensity and the scaling up of investment in renewables, energy storage and smart grids.
In the text, the various groups set 2050 as the date by which Europe must be decarbonised and acknowledged the threat that climate change poses. Promoting sectoral integration with the heating, cooling and transport sectors is also the name of the game.
The heads of the participating associations all agreed on the final destination of their plans but there were notable differences in terms of optimism.
Eurelectric Secretary General Kristian Ruby claimed that “more electricity means cleaner energy”, adding that “electricity is becoming increasingly decarbonised, more efficient, sustainable and competitive”.
SolarPower Europe CEO James Watson said that almost 30% of European power comes from renewables and that predictions show more than half of electricity generation will be renewable-based within the decade.
But the solar power advocate also insisted that further electrification of the European economy “should go hand in hand with a dedicated strategy to deploy more renewables.”
Along the same lines, Ruby added that “the transformation of the electricity sector must go hand in hand with the electrification of other sectors”.
WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said a “reasonable job” is being done of getting renewables into electricity, saying they now cover 29% of EU power demand. But Dickson warned that electricity is currently only 22% of the bloc’s energy consumption and that “we’re doing less well” in the heating, cooling and transport sectors.
The Alliance’s declaration calls for reforms under the current legislative review of European climate, energy and transport legislation, to speed up the future advancement of electrification.
It also calls on the EU to remove barriers to electrification, to roll-out “much-needed” widespread electric vehicle charging infrastructure and to enable the deployment of smart and efficient heating and cooling technologies.
WindEurope’s Dickson also called on Brussels policymakers to ensure the “EU Clean Energy Package is strengthened” in terms of electrification, claiming it makes energy systems “more flexible”.
Bernard Respaut, the head of the European Copper Institute, said copper is the “material of choice” for the electrification of all sectors of the economy, adding ECI had been talking up electrification for the last two decades.
AVERE Secretary General Bert Witkamp shared his disappointment that there was little being done to electrify heavy vehicles and that the EU lags behind when compared to other powers like China.
The e-mobility expert added that by 2030 e-cars will have a range of 700 km but that he had little faith in legislative support for electrification. He said private sector developments were possibly the best avenue instead.