Energy self-sustainability in Europe, short-term strategies: Energy efficiency

Energy Efficiency - Cheapest, Safest, & Cleanest Energy Measure ...

Europe is facing all-time high gas and electricity prices these days [1]. It affects from top to toe the whole economy and the life quality of European citizens. Instead of discussing the five proposals of the European Commission (EC) president [2], we are going to discuss the short-term and mid-term strategies to improve energy self-sustainability in Europe in this article and the next one.

It should be highlighted that most of the strategies or measures proposed here originated from the REPowerEU plan [3] proposed by EC on May 18th, 2022. But, the author believes that since Europe has been surprised by the hottest summer in its history and record-breaking electricity prices, reviewing of that plan and reprioritizing the strategies are of high importance. Let’s make it more concrete:

  1. What should be the short-term strategies to secure affordable energy for the upcoming winter?
  2. How the mid-term strategies or measures should be to get more self-sustainability on energy and at the same time not jeopardize the CO2 emission reduction target in 2030, i.e. 45% less CO2 emission compared to 1990.

In this article, the focus is on the short-term strategies for the EU government and the next article will be on mid-term strategies. The short-term strategies should be prioritized as follows:

  1. Energy efficiency incentives: As the RePowerEU plan mentions. saving energy is the cheapest, safest, and cleanest way to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Energy efficiency and saving energy are almost similar concepts. The author emphasizes that it is undervalued in the RepowerEU plan. It is bullet point number 6 out of 8 in short-term measures of RepowerEU.

Assume that a house consumes 24 kWh in one day. If the power loss in the transmission line is assumed to be 10% and production efficiency in a Gas Combined Cycle (GCC) power plant is 50%, then a 10% consumption reduction in the house leads to 5.28 kWh less energy in the prime mover of GCC and consequently 1.135 cubic meters less gas consumption [4] and 2.15 kg less CO2 emission [5]. The value may seem tiny for one house in one day, but it is enormous for millions of houses in Europe in a couple of months. That is where the importance of 13 bcm reductions in gas import can be clearly concluded [3]. It is therefore of crucial importance that the EU government work on incentive plans for householders and business owners to save 10-20 percent energy, which is not harmful in many cases.

  • Diversifying: Unlike the RePowerEU plan, the author prioritizes this and other measures after energy efficiency. Diversifying of energy sources and suppliers is another typical practice by governments to prioritize upstream energy strategies rather than midstream or downstream, e.g energy efficiency. It is however needed to be considered as a short-term strategy. As it is shown in Figure 1, most EU countries are +30% dependent on fossil fuels to generate electricity. To be prepared for the upcoming winter, some of them put coal power plants in reserve, such as Romania [7]. And some others, e.g. Germany, intend to delay the out-phasing of nuclear power plants [8]. In addition, EU is implementing a shift in gas supply from Russia to Norway, USA, and Algeria.
Figure 1. Production of electricity by source in Europe in 2020
Figure 1. Production of electricity by source in Europe in 2020 [6]

  • Storing gas and oil: As clearly mentioned in RepowerEU, to fill gas storage to 80% of capacity by 1 November 2022 or even more.
  • Rapid roll-out of solar and wind energy projects combined with renewable hydrogen deployment to save around 50 bcm of gas imports.
  • To be prepared for rationing: 15% gas demand cut may help EU to avoid rationing [9]. It can though be inevitable to perform energy rationing in case of long cold winter or congestion in gas market.

Energy rationing in cold winter will increase dissatisfaction among European citizens. In analogy with Corona, the energy crisis in the upcoming winter is not a sudden surprise. A lot of preventive measures could be done in January and February 2020 to avoid the outbreak and lockdowns in March and April 2020 and onwards. This time, EU citizens and government shall act immediately and in harmony. On one side incentives for energy efficiency, roof-top solar, and micro-wind from governments. On the other side, good care from citizens to use energy more efficiently, rapid installation of roof-top solar [10], and micro-wind.

Takeaway

The takeaway for EU citizens: looking around your house or apartment, there are lots of opportunities to save energy. There are many simple and affordable energy efficiency measures out there [11]. The electric kettle in figure 2 with adjustable temperature is one of the simple examples. A common habit is that we boil water to 100 C and use a teabag to serve tea. And then we wait for a while until the tea cools down to 40-50 C before we drink. We can easily save a bit of energy if we boil the water to 70 C every time. Together we can successfully live through this energy crisis with the help of the cheapest, safest, and cleanest energy measure, i.e. energy efficiency.

Figure 2: Electric kettle with adjustable water temperature: A simple energy-saving measure.
Figure 2: Electric kettle with adjustable water temperature: A simple energy-saving measure.

References:

  1. https://euenergy.live/
  2. https://www.euronews.com/my-europe/2022/09/07/europes-energy-crisis-ursula-von-der-leyen-unveils-five-proposals-to-curb-soaring-prices
  3. https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal/repowereu-affordable-secure-and-sustainable-energy-europe_en
  4. https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=667&t=6
  5. https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2016/09/f33/CHP-Gas%20Turbine.pdf
  6. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/cache/infographs/energy/img/pdf/shedding-light-in-the-EU-2022_en.pdf?lang=en
  7. https://energytransition.org/2022/08/romanias-continuing-power-moves-coal-exit-codified-as-eu-funds-new-energy-projects/
  8. https://www.dw.com/en/germany-to-extend-last-2-nuclear-power-plant-lifespans-by-a-few-weeks/a-63023953
  9. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-04/europe-looks-set-for-energy-rationing-after-russian-cut
  10. https://hungarytoday.hu/significant-increase-in-demand-for-solar-panels-in-hungary/
  11. https://www.saveonenergy.ca/For-Your-Home/Advice-and-Tips/12-ways-to-make-your-home-more-energy-efficient