Clean, renewable energy is a no brainer

Written by Morten Helveg Petersen on 23 December 2016 in Opinion
Opinion

Renewable energy is becoming the cheaper option, says Morten Helveg Petersen.

Morten Helveg Petersen | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual


Energy security is of course a crucial debate today, with global instability calling the reliability of many of Europe's major energy import routes and suppliers into question.

This is fundamentally a question about fossil fuel dependence and about the kind of foreign policy that the EU and its member states choose to pursue.

For me this is a no brainer; the EU has to be able to meet its own energy needs, and it needs to be able to do so based on clean renewable energy technologies that don't only make us secure and independent from external supply shocks, but help us deliver affordable energy and tackle climate change.


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And let's be clear about this, those who are still clinging to the idea of keeping imported fossil fuels in our energy mix for the foreseeable future, are turning a blind eye to the fact that Europe is currently undergoing an energy transition. 

Like it or not, renewables, particularly offshore wind, are becoming not only competitive, but cheaper than fossil fuels, and that's putting aside the massive disparities in the various subsidies still afforded to our outdated centralised fossil fuel-based energy generators.

This is well illustrated in the diverging approaches that we see from leaked Commission documents. There is a clear vision, which accepts and seeks to embrace the energy transition as far as it concerns electricity markets, aiming to find the optimal solutions for business and consumers in a decentralised, liberal and very green energy system.

At the same time, the debate regarding capacity mechanism continues to focus on the idea of renewables as an unwelcome destabilising factor, one requiring paradoxically further subsidies for fossil fuels, because renewables are becoming so cheap.

This whole debate about whether intermittency of renewables puts our energy security at risk is misleading. 

A secure energy system is one that is flexible, decentralised and makes optimal use of available resources. That model doesn't exist today, and so yes if we continue with the old top down approach to energy supply, then intermittent renewables of course cause fluctuations and points at which demand outstrips supply. But this is not the model that we should pursue, and in my view we are not pursuing.

Industry is already well aware of the technical challenges but also of the huge potential and opportunity in efficiency savings and cost optimisation that can come from engaging consumers as active market players, and by shifting to an electricity market based on actual market prices rather than fixed tariffs. 

Allowing market signals to help consumers, through smart technology and data applications to get the best value for the energy they use, and to step in as part of a collective demand side response network can and will in my view negate the need for capacity mechanism sand will become the template for integration of intermittent renewables. 

There is enormous potential here to transform our energy system into a highly dynamic, inclusive, liberal and efficient system, that by enabling consumers to participate and benefit from those opportunities can also shift and offset infrastructure costs for network operators and national budgets.

The possibilities are there, and in my view so is the vision. We just need everyone to get on board, and put the past behind us.

 

About the author

Morten Helveg Petersen (DK) is Parliament's ALDE group shadow rapporteur on a European energy security strategy

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