One difficulty we face in Brussels is that the traditional purpose of the EU’s energy policy machinery has been the regulation of the pan-European gas and electricity markets. This is why ‘Brussels’ tends to reach instinctively for gas and or electricity- based solutions to the climate challenge, even where such solutions (electrification of everything, power-to-hydrogen, etc.) remain largely untested, unproven, unavailable, etc. It is unrealistic and unwise to ask the European Commission to abandon what it knows. Instead, we need to make the case that DHC can work in tandem with electricity and gas to make the entire energy transition easier and more cost efficient.
So what can we expect? In considering this, it’s instructive to reflect on the process through which the future President Von der Leyen was appointed. In the face of scepticism about her environmental credentials, notably from Greens and Socialists, she committed to bringing forward a plan for a 55% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030 (compared to the current ambition of 40%). This pledge was instrumental in securing the support she needed and it will not be easily walked back. With 2030 only ten short years away, pursuing this new target will inevitably mean a substantial scaling up of ambition, a new sense of urgency and an openness to new ideas and solutions, without which the goal will simply not be achievable. An interesting example
of this phenomenon is the status of the long-awaited ‘Gas Package’, a new regulatory framework for natural gas expected to be proposed by the Commission at some point in 2020. In recent weeks, the term ‘Gas Package’ has been quietly replaced by ‘Decarbonisation Package’, with Commission officials informally explaining that this change reflects both an increase in ambition and a broadening of scope made necessary by the ‘new political reality’. These turbulent conditions will create new opportunities that could not have been imagined a year or two ago. It is up to our industry to be bold enough to seize them! WHAT SHOULD WE DO? One thing that’s clear is that we need to move beyond the simple message that heating and cooling is too important to overlook. This truth is now widely acknowledged. The next step is to demonstrate that DHC can help deliver the required transformation and to find ways of telling this story that capture people’s imaginations. This is our challenge!
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