There is no recovery without the European Green Deal

By Ditte Juul-Jørgensen, Director-General, DG Energy, European Commission, (pictured)
Summer 2020

Ditte Juul-Jorgensen, Director-General, DG Energy, European CommissionThe EU has pledged to move to a climate-neutral economy by 2050. At the same time, we have been hit by a worldwide pandemic and a severe economic crisis.

In this time of uncertainty, Europe and the European Union must show leadership and help Europeans on the road to recovery. In doing that, we need to learn from the past and embrace this opportunity to transform our economy and society with the help of the European Green Deal for all Europeans. This means increasing investment, creating jobs and innovating for sustainable solutions. There is no policy area more suitable to start with than the energy field.

If we look at Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions, we see that energy generation, transmission and consumption are responsible for 75% of the EU’s emissions. Together with European Member States and the European Parliament, we have already done a lot to make EU energy policy legislation fit for the new challenges. Finalised in 2019, the Clean energy for all Europeans package addressed the three main priorities of EU energy policy: security of supply, affordability, and sustainability. The European Green Deal aims to continue in this path across all sectors and complete the transformation of our energy system into one that is not only carbon-neutral, but also, more cost effective, energy efficient and secure. At the same time, some sectors face a larger transformation than others and so we must ensure that we do not leave any person or region behind. We must make the transition a fair and just process that everyone is a part of.

The principle of 'Energy Efficiency First' is at the heart of the European Green Deal. The cheapest and cleanest energy is the one we do not use, so the more we can do to reduce energy consumption, the better. This is also good news for consumers – saving energy will not only cut emissions, but also lower their energy bills.

Our main thrust of action in this area will be to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. Buildings are one of the main energy consumers in the EU, as well as being responsible for a large amount of GHG emissions. Embracing renovation on a massive scale could not only help our climate and environment, but also kick start the recovery from the coronavirus crisis. This so-called "Renovation Wave" should trigger economic activity, create jobs and support small local companies, while reducing energy bills and improving people's quality of life. A crucial aspect will be the inclusion of social housing in the wave, to help address the challenge of energy poverty in the EU. Our latest figures indicate that up to 50 million people around the EU are not able to properly heat their homes. In this day and age, this is simply not acceptable.

Energy efficiency is important, but so is the source of our energy. We need to increase the share of renewable energy by making it easier to incorporate renewables into our energy system. For this to succeed, we must move towards an integrated energy system to build stronger inter-linkage of the electricity, heating and cooling, transport, gas, industry, and agricultural sectors. In addition, in order to further boost decarbonisation, we will present a new strategy to support offshore renewable energy, addressing the opportunities and challenges therein, such as the impact on energy grids and markets, the management of maritime space and the industrial policy dimensions of offshore wind.

Supporting renewable energy as well as investing in big energy infrastructure projects that stimulate the economy are necessary preconditions for a climate-neutral energy system. We need to use this moment as much as possible to drive through structural change. If we make our energy systems greener, more efficient, smarter, and better integrated now, during this crisis, we can bring deeper and lasting positive change.

Making the European Green Deal a reality will also depend on funding the necessary investment – and the smartest combination of public and private finance. Just to meet our 2030 climate and energy targets, we need an estimated additional €260 billion in annual investments. Public money alone cannot foot this bill. In fact, we will have to rely primarily on the private sector.

By setting clear long-term goals, we are already reducing the risks for investors. Public spending can also play an important role in leveraging private support and providing guarantees. In this context, the Commission has already put forward a Green Deal Investment Plan, which, over the course of the decade, can generate as much as €1 trillion to fund sustainable projects.

Our efforts must not endanger the security of energy supply that we enjoy in the EU. For this, we need a forward-looking, modern, secure and smart energy infrastructure to safeguard it. And we must pursue the diversifi cation of our sources of energy supply to decrease import dependency. Natural gas, which still constitutes almost one quarter of the EU’s energy mix, has a role to play in the medium term, as a substitute for more polluting sources like coal, lignite or oil shale. Ultimately though, the gas we use in the EU has to be clean. We are already working on creating an environment where clean gases can have a signifi cant presence in the EU gas sector.

To conclude, we know that moving towards a climate-neutral green economy by mid-century will be a challenging and long journey and that the energy sector must contribute. But we are starting from the common foundation of the Energy Union and we are more effi cient and stronger by joining forces at EU level. This is a real opportunity for Europeans. The European Green Deal is the EU’s recovery and growth strategy: together with the digitalisation of the EU, we will increase our strength and resilience and be ready for future crises, whilst at the same time reducing our net emissions to zero by 2050.