Reforming the EU energy sector is necessary

According to the European Environment Agency the generation of electricity and heat in the 27 country members account for 80 percent of of European Union’s greenhouse gases emissions.

This occurs as the sector progressively steps back from both coal and oil to embrace natural gas and renewable energy sources. It also increased its efficiency.

But a trend continuation of these changes won’t be enough to avoid massive climate change. Faster and bigger changes have to take place.

As their press release notes :

80 % of the greenhouse gas emissions in Europe still come from the energy sector, warns a report from the European Environment Agency released today.

The sector continues to have significant impacts on the environment, despite the fact that more efficient production of electricity and heat, together with an increased share of renewable energy sources and replacement of coal and oil with gas are gradually contributing to cut emissions of greenhouse gas and air pollutants in Europe.

The 2008 Energy and environment report confirms that if Europeans simply stick by current policies and measures, energy consumption will continue to rise by up to 26 % by 2030 —and fossil fuels will remain as the main source of supply.

“Business as usual is not an option for the energy sector” stated Professor Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director at the launch of the report in the European Parliament in  Strasbourg today. The move towards a low carbon society “isn’t happening fast enough to secure the future of our environment”, she said.

“Energy from fossil fuels is the root cause of human induced climate change” Professor McGlade told the Joint Parliamentary Meeting on Energy and Sustainable Development today.

“The commitment of Europe to a post carbon economy and sustainable renewable energy is essential for energy security and tacking climate change” she added.

The 2008 Energy and environment report reported some positive findings with regard to the growth of the renewable energy sector and its potential to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

But renewable sources only represented 8.6 % of the final energy consumption in Europe in 2005 — some way short of the EU target to achieve 20 % by 2020.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • European households have increased their electricity consumption by 31% in the last 15 years, in spite of an average increase by 17 % in end-user electricity prices compared to the mid 1990s.
  • Over 54 % of the energy used in Europe in 2005 was imported from outside its borders. Russia is the largest single energy exporter to the EU, supplying 18.1 % of the EU-27 total primary energy consumption in 2005.
  • Between 1990 and 2005, the EU-27 experienced an average GDP growth rate of 2.1 %, while reducing its energy-related CO2 emissions by a total of about 3 %. During the same period, CO2 emissions increased by 20 % in the US and doubled in China.

The main problem I have with this is that switching from coal and oil to natural gas solves only half of a problem and creates a bigger one: energy dependance.

Most of Europe’s natural gas comes straight from Russia. If we have political difficulties with this country, it can cut our supplies. It already occurred, and it could occur again.

To me, cutting the demand via energy efficiency and conservation directly in households, plants and buildings is the single best way to do so.

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