The road to 2030

EU energy efficiency targets in the UK

Kassel/ Richmond. If the EU is to meet new energy efficiency targets by 2030, the UK will have a significant role to play. A way to achieve the desired results will come from letting business take the lead on a micro level, while promoting a combination of renewables and clean fossil fuels on a macro level.

In October last year the European Union (EU) underlined its commitment to tackling climate change, by outlining new and ambitious energy efficiency targets all member states will have to meet by 2030. They include a cut in greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent compared to 1990 levels, an EU-wide binding target for renewable energy to make up at least 27 percent of the energy mix and an indicative energy efficiency target of at least 27 percent. They build on the EU’s 2020 targets and are aimed at safeguarding the environment for future generations, and are an important step in placing greenhouse gas emissions reductions at the centre of European policy.

Lead by example
The UK has already made significant progress in improving energy efficiency in response to the 2020 targets and is one of the most advanced countries in the EU in this regard.  Final energy intensity was 23 percent below the EU average in 2014 and despite UK GDP doubling since 1980 energy consumption remains broadly the same, demonstrating increased efficiency.

These improvements came in part due to Government initiatives on a micro-level which have encouraged and rewarded businesses for being more energy efficient.  Climate Change Agreements (CCAs), for example, provide energy-intensive industries with tax discounts in return for meeting energy efficiency targets.

With the help of such schemes considerable progress has been made. Energy use has fallen in seven out of the last eight years – but more ambitious targets mean even more will need to be done.  This presents two distinct challenges.   

Now comes the hard part
Firstly, reduction in usage is harder to come by as many of the easy wins – installing insulation or a modern boiler – have already been widely implemented. Secondly, business is keen to avoid further Government intervention so organisations must take responsibility for driving progress towards the 2030 targets.

One way industry can take the lead is by taking advantage of data on energy consumption – the accuracy and availability of which has increased massively over the last ten years.  Users now expect access to it from their suppliers.  This allows them to analyse and manage their usage much more effectively, helping to increase efficiency and – even more attractively – cut costs.  By establishing a strong relationship with customers, suppliers can help to drive energy efficiency with individual businesses, thus avoiding the need for Government to intervene as it seeks to help reach international targets.

Strength in partnership
WINGAS UK works closely with its customers, providing them with that vital data to drive efficiency.

Head of Business and Corporate Development at WINGAS UK Ian Woods commented: “We are passionate about delivering the very best service to our customers and a key part of this is providing accurate, up to date information about their natural gas consumption. Having this enables customers to make positive decision on their energy use – and we are always on hand to advise them on the most effective strategy to help them improve efficiency.”

For the past 18 months WINGAS UK has been supporting Edgbaston Cricket Ground’s strategy to become the most energy efficient sports stadium in the country. So far, initiatives at the stadium include deploying Building Management Systems (BMS) across the site which allows careful monitoring and control of the mechanical and electrical equipment which uses energy. BMS will help to control the sites temperature more effectively and reduce the demands on the plant room.

A combined heat and power system is also being considered as a possible method to deploy gas efficiently and sustainably, plus solar panels are to be installed by 2020. By using technology and renewable energy, Edgbaston is well on the way to achieving its goals.

This micro-level example of business taking the initiative will need to be replicated across sectors if targets are to be met. As well as increasing efficiency, reaching the 2030 targets will require a transformation in how electricity is generated. Renewable sources have a key role to play as they produce electricity without emitting CO2, but technology in this area is not yet advanced enough to fulfil all our energy needs.

Naturally better 
This means looking to cleaner fossil fuels until such time as renewable technology is capable of meeting energy demands. A recent WINGAS report produced with the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research found that natural gas emits 50 percent less CO2 per kilowatt hour than coal, demonstrating the key role gas has to play in helping the UK achieve the 2030 goals.

Individual businesses are busy enough without having to worry about how their electricity is produced, so Government will need to promote a cleaner energy mix on a macro level. Ian Woods said: “Natural gas is the most versatile fossil fuel and will be essential in securing the energy transition. Legislation which incentivises the use of cleaner fossil fuels would be a great way of reducing CO2 emissions in an affordable way.”

The 2030 targets are rightly ambitious and meeting them will make a significant contribution to protecting the planet.  If the UK is to deliver its fair share of efficiency savings it will need to strike a careful balance of micro and macro level initiatives and resist the temptation to introduce further red tape.

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