“Sector coupling” is the new energy buzzword in town. In essence, it means bringing different energy carriers, infrastructure and consumption sectors closer together in search of more renewables, greater efficiency, and lower carbon emissions.
With its European Green Deal, tabled in December 2019, the European Commission has set out a wide range of policy initiatives to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050.
Among those is “the smart integration of renewables, energy efficiency and other sustainable solutions across sectors” which, according to the Green Deal, “will help to achieve decarbonisation at the lowest possible cost”.
The notion of “energy system integration” is mentioned only once in the Green Deal. But the concept has already reached buzzword-status and is often used interchangeably with other expressions such as “smart sector integration” or “sector coupling”.
Put simply, it means bringing together the electricity and gas sectors on the energy supply side and linking them with major energy consuming sectors on the demand side – such as transport, buildings, households, industry and agriculture.
These sectors currently operate in silos and continue to rely chiefly on fossil fuels, which are responsible for the bulk of human-made global warming emissions.
Linking them all together in a “hybrid” energy system combining gas and electricity is part of the latest thinking in Brussels to extract deep emissions cuts from transport, buildings and industry, which are considered “hard-to-abate” because they cannot easily be electrified.
Fuelling the hype, the EU’s sector integration initiative received its own dedicated strategy in June. As an “appendix” to that document, also a hydrogen strategy was realeased, setting out the envisioned role for hydrogen as, among other things, a “key enabler” of sector integration.
So what is the fuss all about? EURACTIV explores the main issues.
(Edited by Frédéric Simon)