A no-regrets strategy towards 2030 Smart Sector Integration
This paper discusses a no-regrets strategy and measures in the energy transition process towards 2030 and analyses the main barriers to energy system integration that need to be addressed by priority.
In this paper, Dr Nikolaos Vasilakos (Member of the Advisory Board, European Renewable Energies Federation), explains why a no-regrets strategy and measures in the energy transition process towards 2030, of which Smart Sector Integration (SSI) is an important element, will necessarily have to address and effectively support the following key features of the transition process:
- The massive growth and integration of renewables, particularly intermittent (wind, solar), into Europe’s electricity system, at an unprecedented scale and rate, in order to meet the EU 2030 targets, which will be increased in the context of the European Green Deal, and to facilitate reaching net zero emissions by 2050. To this end, effective decarbonisation will require a very significant increase in the use of renewable electricity across sectors, particularly in the heating and cooling, industrial and transport sectors, which still rely, to a large extent, on fossil fuels and which need to be electrified much further.
- The urgent need for a substantial increase in the efficiency of both the functioning of the internal electricity market and the utilisation of the associated electricity infrastructure, in order to smoothly and effectively integrate, transport and use the huge amounts of generated RES electricity.
- The necessary phase-out of fossil fuels in energy production, which needs to be driven by:
- i) a very substantial and rapid decrease in the share of coal-fired power capacity, and
- ii) the gradual but irreversible phase-out of fossil gas-fired power capacity, a direction which is necessary to reach stringent 2030 and 2050 decarbonisation targets. This, in turn, necessitates the corresponding growth of green electricity storage capacity, especially large-scale projects for mid- and long-term storage, but also projects in demand-side flexibility and other green storage options.
- In addition to strengthening the electricity storage capacity, in times of low demand and high RES generation through wind and solar, the integration of the gas and electricity sectors can turn the temporarily abundant renewable electricity into green hydrogen, that can be easily stored and reconverted back into electricity, in times of high demand. Investing in green power-to-gas technologies could, in the medium and long-term, contribute to increasing the RES share in the EU’s energy mix and help decarbonise the gas sector.
The present paper discusses each of the above key features of the 2030 energy transition process, which can be promoted by a set of no-regrets strategies and measures, that can effectively support the transition process, generally at low cost and quick turn-around times, as well as with multiple economic, employment and social benefits. Then, the paper analyses the main barriers to energy system integration that need to be addressed by priority. It focuses attention on the electricity-driven decarbonisation of other sectors, the role of renewable gases and hydrogen in the energy integration process, and the contribution of energy markets and infrastructure to a more integrated energy system. Based on the above analysis, the paper proposes a set of no-regrets strategies, policy actions and legislative measures, aimed at fostering an efficient and cost-effective drive for energy system integration towards 2030.
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Nikolaos Vasilakos is a Member of the Advisory Board and, also, Honorary Member of the Governing Board of the European Renewable Energies Federation (EREF). He was the former President of the National Energy Regulatory Authority of Greece (2010-2015). He is currently a senior external expert (2016-2021) at the Directorate-General for Energy, European Commission, serving as a Member of the EC Expert Group on Electricity Interconnection Targets. Nikolaos’ current research interests focus on key policy and regulatory aspects of the Energy Transition, particularly in relation to new infrastructure requirements and development.