Editorial - VGB PowerTech Journal 4/2018

Electricity Sector leaders commit to accelerating the clean energy transition

How should industry respond to the increasing urgency of climate change, air pollution and depletion of natural resources?

In December 2017, the European electricity sector announced a new long-term vision for the electricity industry in Europe.

National associations and Chief Executives from all major power companies in Europe have agreed a vision declaration that commits the sector to accelerate the clean energy transition, taking a leading role in Europe’s efforts towards the Paris Agreement.

Sector leaders have all committed to take action to support the economy-wide shift to a climate-friendly society and achieve a carbon-neutral electricity mix in the EU well before mid-century.

Electrification as a key decarbonisation tool

The new Vision statement is articulated around three major ideas: what electricity can bring to society, what the electricity industry commits to and what is needed from policymakers to deliver. Together, these three elements ensure that electricity continues to add value to the lives of citizens, communities and future generations.

With the new vision, the sector strengthens its commitment to invest in clean power generation and other transition-enabling solutions and, importantly, to help accelerate CO2 emission reductions in other sectors through increased use of clean electricity.

Electricity as a product offers countless solutions. Its contribution to the development of society today has been extraordinary, and it will continue to grow. With the potential for electricity generation to become carbon-neutral, it will help decarbonise a number of other sec-tors of the economy, like transport and heating and cooling.

It can help reduce Europe’s dependency on imported fuels, clean the air of cities and bring customers new comfort through digital energy services and zero-emission transport.

In order to reap the benefits of electricity’s in a cost-efficient manner, policymakers need to recognise the key role of increasing clean and climate-friendly electricity in achieving Europe’s climate and energy commitments under the Paris Agreement. They should actively support measures that accelerate the shift towards competitively priced electricity for European consumers.

They should also accelerate electrification through smart and better regulation, and promote the take-up of clean heating and cooling in residential and industrial buildings, clean electric mobility and more efficient industrial processes.

Making the right investments and putting customers first

The Vision statement also comes with a strong commitment to invest in innovation, to build new cross-sector business models, to make sure the electricity industry can keep creating value in the coming decades.

Digitalisation, distributed generation and technological progress are changing the fundamentals of the business and showing unanticipat-ed interactions. To retain its pivotal role and maximise its value, the electricity industry needs to discover innovative ways to create value with a fresh approach.

Key to this will be to put the customer at the heart of the industry’s activities and develop new offerings like aggregation, demand re-sponse, peer-to-peer energy transactions and new services. These new building blocks, connected by smart distribution networks, will provide Europe with a resilient, flexible and highly efficient electricity system.

The electricity sector commits to invest in finding sustainable solutions to transform societies into carbon-free ones, and to ensure build-ing win-win initiatives that are inclusive and address the rights and duties of all stakeholders including investors, workers and local com-munities.

The need for a fair transition

The ambition of this statement is significant, especially for regions which depend on high carbon value chains. This is why the electricity industry calls on policymakers to do their utmost to ensure a fair energy transition, both socially and geographically.

This must include the provision of the necessary support and funding to address socio-economic impacts. During this transition, policy-makers must ensure fair effort sharing and guard data protection, privacy and freedom of choice for customers.

Following the adoption of this vision statement, the European electricity sector will engage with stakeholders and launch several projects in the coming years aimed at identifying the challenges and opportunities of an accelerated clean energy transition.