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    EC Can Shape Energy Users' Behaviour: Conference

Summary

The 30th Eurogas annual conference brought out some big guns on both sides – or neither – of the electrons /molecules debate.

by: William Powell

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EC Can Shape Energy Users' Behaviour: Conference

The European Union and the UK are some way down the path towards climate neutrality by 2050 – at least on paper: there is a carbon market where the price is rising as certificates shrink; there is a Green Deal to promote investment in technology such as hydrogen; coal is being phased out of the power sector in some countries; and carbon capture and storage is close to becoming a reality in others. 

However the target is very ambitious and the regulatory framework needs adjusting if all the options are to be fully exploited in an affordable manner, some of the speakers at Eurogas' 30th annual conference said October 1. But individual users also should take responsibility for their energy consumption, others said.

Both the wind industry and the pipeline industry, represented by WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson and the European National Transmission System Operators Group director Jan Ingwersen, talked pointedly about the need for level playing fields so that their industries could thrive. Dickson said that wind power was some of the cheapest electricity around, and was enabling a hydrolysis project in the North Sea that will deliver hydrogen to German industry.

Electricity could, according to some estimates, account for half of Europe's total energy needs by 2050, compared with 21% now, so the means of generation has to be low to zero carbon where possible. 

WindEurope estimates that transport, industrial energy users and buildings will all consume over half their energy needs as electricity by that date. Entsog did not question the percentages but did point out the savings of time and money from converting the newest pipelines to carry hydrogen, compared with obtaining planning permission and building cables from scratch. And no conversion is needed if biomethane is injected into the grid. In that context, Ingwersen welcomed the European Commission's twin initiatives on hydrogen and on gas and power systems integration.

The chair of European board of energy regulators Acer, Clara Poletti, questioned if the rules needed updating: tax and tariff regimes did not treat the customers and suppliers of both forms of energy equally, she said.

In the opening address, EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson had said  that the "ambitious goal of climate-neutrality" meant a rethinking and renewal of the energy system. "Different technological solutions will compete across sectors and across energy carriers and it should be the consumers who decide which are the most suitable options for them," she said.

The gas industry had recognised the need to evolve to match the needs of the future, she said, and the changes will benefit "all of us: the consumers, the economy and the planet."

The head of gas, power and renewables at French Total and president of Eurogas Philippe Sauquet, said it made sense to "heat homes in the most affordable and effective way." Replacing coal with gas would improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions, he said, while blending in biomethane and hydrogen will further that process of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Eurogas wants a target of 11% renewable gas in the gaseous fuel mix in 2030, supporting an overall greenhouse gas emission intensity reduction target of 20% for gaseous fuels by 2030. "This will set us on the pathway to deliver a decarbonised and renewable gas sector by 2050," he said.

And the question of how much this would cost would be partly offset by revenues from technology manufacturing and climate solutions deployment. "Most importantly, they will bring jobs, wealth and pride to the European workforce," he said.