The European energy transition, in progress in almost all countries, is part of the contribution of the Old Continent to the fight against climate change. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, CO2 first, is at the center of the concerns.
Changing the mix of power generation technologies to migrate to a more carbon-free mix, with fewer fossil fuels and more renewable energy, is the main understanding of the energy transition that comes to mind.
But is this evolution sufficient? Can we rely on technological change to achieve our goals? Will we not, as a citizen, get involved in this “adventure”?
In a recent article, I have already mentioned simultaneously the benefits of photovoltaic energy and the problems that its large-scale deployment might pose; this perspective allowed me to open the door to a priority consideration for energy efficiency and the reduction of our consumption.
Reducing the energy consumption of buildings, which accounts for more than a quarter of Europe’s energy consumption, implies first and foremost an extensive building insulation plan to reduce the consumption of heating and cooling. Then, the use of less energy-consuming equipment and products will complete the targeted savings. Even if in buildings, they do not represent the most important source of savings, changes in our behavior are not to be neglected.
They suppose real changes of our habits: new behaviors when purchasing products consuming less energy when being manufactured or used, new behaviors of life, increased attention brought to the waste (whose treatment is strongly energy consuming). These changes will not be decisive for lowering our energy consumption, but they will be essential to prevent it from rising again.
In the transport sector, which accounts for about one-third of Europe’s energy consumption, switching to electric vehicles (bicycles, cars, trucks, coaches) can reduce CO2 emissions or simply relocate them from oil products combustion sites to the power generation sites. This displacement is not to neglect because it will relieve cities, that are areas of very high concentration of pollutants, generators of more and more numerous health problems.
But in transport, the most effective actions are to reduce the needs of transport: it requires a different cities’ layout to reduce intra-urban displacements, new organizations of work to reduce daily commute to work, a new link to cars whose sharing will allow very significant gains, a decline in the supply of exotic or out of season food products.
Our way of life is therefore at the center of the debate: we must be neither radical nor dogmatic because we all must adopt a new way of life: we will do it less easily, less quickly under constraint and in a non-accepted and non-shared frame. But our action must still be voluntarist to lead to the necessary results.
Don’t we have just described one of the main objectives of the Smart Cities which, through the way they will be designed and through the stimulation of the citizens they will drive, will contribute to improving the comfort of life in the city and to achieving our environmental protection goals?
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Eric Morel is a worldwide recognised expert of energy transition and digitalisation. In the past, he has served as VP Corporate Business Strategy and VP Global Smart Grids and Energy Efficiency at Schneider Electric as well as CEO of Ilevo, a telecommunication start-up. He is a founding member and a former Board member of the Gridwise Alliance, the main professional private/public association dedicated to Smart Energy.