Are the climate and energy targets achievable?
The climate issue is one of the biggest challenges of our time. In order to achieve the current climate and energy targets, all operators – society as a whole, businesses and consumers – need to actively seek to reduce their carbon footprints.
The Paris agreement on climate change, signed at the end of 2015, states that the world's nations have united in limiting the global increase in temperature to below 2°C. The agreement is legally enforceable, and is a clear signal to all of us that we need to limit greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to climate change.
The EU anticipates that global greenhouse gas emissions will need to reduce by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels, and to approach zero by 2100 in order fulfil the climate agreement. For the Nordic countries, the EU's energy and climate targets, usually termed 20/20/20*, constitute the starting point for member states' individual targets. However, all the Nordic countries impose more aggressive targets than the EU.
In order to reach the targets, we all need to modify our habits and processes. There's no doubt that many companies in the Nordics take this very seriously.
"Demand for energy services has clearly increased, particularly as a result of an EU directive outlining requirements for energy auditing in large businesses.** At present, most companies are focusing on reducing energy consumption through various energy efficiency measures. In the long term, a shift towards renewable energy sources will also be necessary, even if this will take some time. Here, the Nordic countries have made varying progress," commented Kjell Wåhlgren, Head of one of Coor's Competence Centers for Energy and the Environment at Coor Sweden.
Kjell Wåhlgren explains that the energy efficiency initiatives vary between customers. They range from selective measures, such as energy auditing and other reviews, to major, over-arching initiatives. He also emphasizes the importance of ongoing systematic energy initiatives, which can have a significant effect in the long term.
"It's obviously important to right the major systemic errors, which exist in most areas. At the same time, we mustn't forget ongoing energy initiatives. It's a bit like having regular manicures – if you don't look after you nails they grow out of control very quickly. In the same way, we need to continuously monitor, trim and seek to keep energy thieves at bay," commented Kjell Wåhlgren.
Coor has a well-established model for systematic energy initiatives, based on clear energy savings targets and action plans produced in collaboration with Coor's customers. The initiatives aim to continuously harness surplus energy generated and avoid unnecessary energy spillages – on a small and large scale. Coor takes an over-arching view in connection with these assignments, coordinating energy efficiency and supporting local organizers at our customers' suppliers by contributing specialist expertise.
But what can be done in concrete terms?
"One measure which is often very effective relates to improving energy efficiency in data centers. Large amounts of surplus energy is produced by cooling aggregates, which can be harnessed to heat adjacent properties, for example. We've initiated and implemented several such schemes throughout the Nordics. Other examples include the introduction of motion-sensor lighting in toilets and corridors. New digital tools, such as the internet of things, also generate positive potential for operating property systems for CO2, ventilation, lighting etc. far more efficiently. There's considerable interest in this area at present," Kjell Wåhlgren explains.
Kjell Wåhlgren is cautiously optimistic about the transition to renewable energy sources, as he expects the process to take some time. A combination of fossil fuel and renewable energy sources are still required for basic energy supply at present.
"Progress on generating power from renewable sources is moving incredibly quickly, particularly least with regard to solar and wind power. The challenge has been to capture and store the available energy, although major advances have recently been made, including research into powerful and safe batteries, and effective and reasonably priced solar panels. It's very exciting that players with major distribution networks, like IKEA, now sell solar panels aimed at consumers," Kjell Wåhlgren commented.
One obstacle in the area of transport that's held back the expansion of electric cars, is the absence of an extensive electric vehicle charger network. Here too, Kjell Wåhlgren sees positive signs in the form of focused initiatives by several major power companies, and some property owners, although he considers that a more structured approach will still be necessary and welcomes the discussion currently underway in Europe about shared standards for charging stations.
"Electric cars are now becoming powerful enough to seriously compete with petrol-driven vehicles. Once a fully extended system of charging stations is in place, the transport industry will be transformed. Given current progress, this is probably only a matter of years.
Despite the progress to date, many commentators doubt that current measures will be enough.
"Given current emission levels, it's doubtful whether we'll ever achieve the energy and emission targets. I believe that many EU nations, including in the Nordic countries, will need to make their standards more stringent and tighten legislation. This will benefit companies that are already being responsible by actively pursuing energy efficiency," Kjell Wåhlgren concludes.
* EU climate targets by 2020
The current targets for the EU's climate initiatives are usually abbreviated 20-20-20. This refers to four targets to be reached by 2020. The EU will:
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20%, compared to 1990 levels
- Reduce energy consumption by 20%
- Increase the share of renewable energy to 20% of all energy consumption
- Increase the proportion of biofuels to 10%
Renewable energy is derived from non-fossil sources, including wind, solar power, hydroelectric power and biofuels.
Source: The EU information Centre / Swedish Parliament.
** Energy auditing
A new EU directive makes stringent demands on large companies to perform energy audits from 2016.