By Paul Voss, Director, Euroheat & Power
Life in Brussels is all about cycles. The weather moves from cold and rainy to slightly warmer and rainy, with occasional detours through disturbing heat waves along the way. In the same way, EU politics are defined by phases. Legislative packages are prepared, produced, renegotiated, adopted and implemented. Institutions get new leadership and with it new priorities and ambitions. The autumn of 2019 will see major changes that will shape the European policy environment for the coming five years. A new set of Parliamentarians will take up their places and a new set of European Commissioners, led by the incoming President Ursula Von der Leyen, will up residence in the Berlaymont. This new five year cycle, coming on the heels of the recently completed Clean Energy Package, is expected to be a decisive period in the development of Europe’s climate and energy policy framework. Needless to say, this makes it a hugely important period for the European DHC industry and for Euroheat & Power as we work to secure the position of our networks within the EU’s plans for the energy transition. We can’t wait to get started! DON’T LOOK BACK! With hindsight, 2014 looks like a remarkably simple and innocent time! Barack Obama was in the Whitehouse, the United Kingdom was in the European Union, and DHC was leading a quiet life, far from the spotlight of the EU energy debate. Our job (and our ambition) back then was simple; put DHC on the EU’s agenda! Put simply, this required us to do a lot of (both literal and figurative) shouting. In meeting after meeting, with stakeholders and institutions all over Brussels, we asked some basic questions again and again. Did you know that heating and cooling account for half of Europe’s energy consumption? Why is the sector still dominated by oil and gas?
What’s the plan for its decarbonisation? Why are we constantly conflating energy and electricity??? Why does everyone in Brussels ask so many rhetorical questions???? Happily, these ‘guerrilla’ tactics brought some results. The European Commission began to acknowledge the importance of heating and cooling and produced the first ever European strategy for the sector. Better still, there was new recognition of the role and potential of DHC networks in supporting the energy transition and a prominent role for them in the final versions of the clean energy package legislation. All of this is a testament to our sector’s arrival as a legitimate topic of conversation in the EU energy policy debate. And while we may look back on this shared achievement with satisfaction, the autumn of 2019 must be the point at which we put this period behind us. Ultimately, it can be nothing more than the foundation upon which we must build our future success. WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN? One of the striking things about this new period is how little certainty there can be about what it will bring. Last time around, at least as far as climate and energy policy goes, it was clear that the five years would be dominated by the preparation, negotiation and finalisation of the clean energy package. The outlook for this new term is much less predictable. Five years ago, Greta Thunberg was 11 years old and presumably went to school like all her classmates. Today, she is the face of a movement which may (or may not) finally force politicians to act with the speed and clarity of purpose that the climate crisis so obviously requires. Five years ago, Europe was extremely vulnerable to disruption in the supply of Russian gas. Today, thanks to greater coordination and the implementation of various emergency provisions, this particular threat is far less severe.
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