The COVID-19 outbreak is strangling Europe’s economy. This adds up to the enormous challenges Europe is already facing: tackling the climate crisis, ensuring inclusive growth, and developing the skills for a digital and decarbonised economy. The European Union (EU) will have to step in with a huge recovery package to help ailing economies. The European Green Deal and its Industrial Strategy can turn these challenges into opportunities and steer green recovery.
The European Industry has a major role to play in moving to a competitive, carbon neutral and circular economy. By shifting away from the inefficient separate generation of heat and electricity in their factories to solutions that combine heat and power efficiently and use renewable energy sources like biomass, biogas or hydrogen, industrial players can help integrate a huge amount of renewables at local level. Excess heat and electricity, or other by-products, can then also be supplied to surrounding facilities and local communities. Doing so, they make the energy system more flexible, maximise resource efficiency and deliver sectoral integration and industrial symbiosis contributing to a circular economy.
Most solutions are already there but need to be scaled up. Europe needs a plan to ensure that their massive deployment is at the heart of the upcoming economic stimulus. The Spanish Cogeneration Association, ACOGEN, sees an opportunity in the recently published Industrial Strategy to accelerate the energy transition of the European industry. Industries that use cogeneration see different initiatives underway to achieve a future in which cogeneration continues to bring its benefits of efficiency, emissions cuts and competitiveness to industry but also the whole European energy system.
Public money will more than ever be needed to unlock private investment which may otherwise not materialise. Programmes like the European Investment Funds and Cohesion Funds, Horizon Europe or the Innovation Fund should be redirected towards massively deploying the most energy efficient and renewable solutions, like cogeneration, district heating, wind and sun in the economy, including in sectors not covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Making support schemes and State Aid stronger and more stable is also essential.
Furthermore, Europe needs to break existing silos in legislation to be fit for the industry of the future. A lot of focus has been placed on decarbonising electricity, less on gas or heat. Heat is central for industry. The chemical, food and drink, ceramics, pulp and paper and alumina sectors, to name a few, need continuous heat supply to remain competitive. A significant portion of this heat cannot be electrified for cost or technical reasons and most of it comes from polluting sources and is being wasted. Without a serious approach to decarbonise industrial heat, there will be no decarbonisation of Europe. The gas grid is also a significant energy transmission and storage system that needs to be decarbonised at pace. Efficient energy solution provider Centrax considers that there will be a need for fuel-based cogeneration to provide efficient power and especially heat for industry, commercial building and heat networks. Such high efficiency solutions will be essential to use the valuable decarbonised and renewable fuels of the future in the best way. The EU needs a clear roadmap now with support measures to drive this essential decarbonisation process and ensure the investment certainty that industry needs to green.