In a keynote address at the 2017 KPMG Global Power & Utilities Conference, Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, discussed the European Union's efforts to be the leader of the global clean energy transition. Several of Cañete's observations and remarks follow:
The commission updated its framework for the European utility market aimed at creating a level playing field for energy. The outcome of recent auctions and tenders, particularly for offshore wind power, demonstrate the survivability of certain sustainable energies without or with lower subsidies.
“This is a sign of investor confidence in technological progress, good policy design, and policy reforms to maximize revenues in line with current and future investment costs.”
“Enabling new technologies and the digitalization of the energy system is not only helping the transition to sustainable energy, but the transition of consumers to active contributors to the energy system from passive recipients.”
The European Commission's Clean Energy Package supports customer access to energy price comparisons and opens the possibility for households to produce and sell their own electricity, with the end goal of lowering prices and increasing efficiencies. Such customer access is made possible by digital technologies.
“Digitalization creates challenges of its own. Widespread use of IT and data will become the foundation for infrastructure. Those digital systems, especially if connected, make us vulnerable to new cyber threats.”
The commission has proposed a cyber response framework defining sector-specific rules for cybersecurity for cross-border electricity flows, including minimum requirements for planning, monitoring, reporting and crisis management.
“This is a reminder that we must listen carefully about both opportunities and potential threats and how this affects the lives of consumers and the practices of businesses.”
“Whereas the future of the energy sector will be more digital, the future of our mobility will likely be more electric, at least for passenger road transport. This begs the question, is the power sector ready for this new challenge? Can it commercially profit from the electrification of transport? And to what extent is the power sector investing in the appropriate infrastructure to realize such profits?”
The commission adopted an ambitious mobility package to ensure that transport will play a role in reducing car and van CO2 emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Included in the package is support for building an alternative fuels infrastructure across Europe.
“The lack of physical charging infrastructure is already a bottleneck for the uptake of electric cars, and hence the establishment of an infrastructure was a commission priority.”
Consumers are as important in the transition to electric mobility as they are in the transition to self-generated and distributed energy for the home.
“A smart energy system and active customers are essential not only for managing the energy transition, but also for integrating electric vehicles to the energy system, and thereby driving the decarbonization of transport. All of this adds to a paradigm shift towards a digital, smart and clean energy system. Utilities are at the core of this shift, but it also requires the participation of consumers in marketplace."
“If the challenges seem daunting, I would encourage us all to think about what we stand to gain from a successful energy transition, and by reverse, what we will miss out on if we don't make the leap.”
Clean energies already attract hundreds of billions of Euros in global investment and represent more than 1.5 million jobs. “One thing people sometimes forget is that green economy sectors do not work in isolation. They create activity along supply chains.”
Looking ahead, the proposals in the Clean Energy for All Europeans package adopted in late 2016 are anticipated to generate up to a 1 percent increase in European GDP over the next decade compared to business-as-usual conditions, pumping an additional 190 billion into the European economy and creating 900,000 new jobs.
“The benefits for the economy as a whole are clear. The changes we are witnessing are at a magnitude that goes beyond a single business or legislate initiative. Our mission is to create an enabling framework for change to take place but it will ultimately be up to the energy sector to make the best out of it by doing what you do best: innovate, compete and move the sector forward.”