European Industry is standing in front of a double challenge. It has to reduce its emissions and remain competitive on a global level. Early March 2020, the European Commission presented its new Industrial Strategy for Europe to help Europe's industry transition towards climate neutrality and digital leadership. With the COVID-19 crisis and the economic downturn, this strategy will need a review to build a cleaner and resilient industry in Europe.
The ball is now in the camp of the European Parliament. As a Member of the European Parliament for the Renew Europe Group and a Shadow Rapporteur on the European Industrial Strategy, Christophe Grudler is taking a front seat in drawing the lines of a sustainable and competitive European industry. COGEN Europe had the pleasure to hear his views on the future of European industry (VIDEO).
Mr Grudler has high expectations for the industrial strategy: “If I need to choose 3 priorities, I would, firstly, have a strategy that considers all ecosystems, all types of compagnies and all of European regions. Nobody should be forgotten. Specific attention must be paid to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).”
Secondly, Mr Grudler wants to accelerate the sustainability and digitalisation of industries. “This means extracting less resources and using more renewable energy. It also means training more people to digital tools, in particular in SMEs, to become more competitive. Europe can be a leader in the green and digital economy.”
The third priority is to ensure strategic autonomy for Europe. “The development of European value chains is critical, especially in strategic sector such as health or defence. Europe cannot only depend on external actors when it comes to such important fields. Moreover, we need to secure the supply of raw materials in Europe, notably by reusing already existing materials and diversifying our supplies.”
"We need better EU rules
to increase energy efficiency"
A key question is how to safeguard European industry’s competitiveness during this transformation. “Changing industrial processes takes time. The investments we are doing today will have impacts for decades. That is why the European Recovery Plan needs to help European industries accelerate their energy transition while protecting their competitiveness.”
Mr Grudler also calls for the establishment of a carbon border adjustment mechanism. “There is no competitiveness if there are unfair competitors. It is a topic that Renew Europe will continue to put forward, and I hope that we can make progress soon on the topic. Our industries need it, in particular in the steel sector.”
One difficult challenge is to decarbonise manufacturing processes, in particular heat production often coming from polluting and inefficient sources. In the industrial sector, heat represents more than 60% of energy use. Mr Grudler considers that for low temperatures, industrial heat pumps will be essential to electrify many installations. For higher temperatures, the use of renewable gases, or technologies such as microwave, ultrasound or electrochemistry will be very useful. “We [also] need to reduce the energy losses and improve efficiency” he added. "This is where cogeneration is interesting, as it allows to make the most out of one energy source. Reusing waste heat from industrial sites is also something we need to develop, for example combined with a district heating system. We need better EU rules to increase energy efficiency, and at the same time we need EU investments.”
“Cogeneration has a role to play in using
renewable gases in the most efficient way.”
Furthermore, Mr Grudler believes that renewable gases will be important in the energy transition. They allow to decarbonise sectors that cannot be directly electrified. But he also stresses that more efficient use of renewable gases will be needed. “If there are heat losses when using biogas, that is a pity. Cogeneration has a role to play in using renewable gases in the most efficient way. In the case of hydrogen, performance can be improved, and I am confident the European investments in research will help to increase this efficiency. This is why the investments in Horizon Europe are so important, and that the Member states must reach an ambitious agreement on the subject.”
Europe has little time to steer investment in the right direction to transform its industry and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. The European Parliament position, expected to be adopted in the fall, should help shed light on where the focus needs to be.