Europe: “The first economy of the low-carbon age”
It’s a new era in the fight against climate change, says European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso. The 27 countries of the European Union have proclaimed far-reaching mandates to reduce carbon emissions and boost renewable energy use. He called on the rest of the world to join the EU in “the great project of our generation.
“I believe that this will be an important moment for Europe,” he said, adding that he hoped the bloc’s actions will spur change in other parts of the world. “If we want a global agreement, it is absolutely indispensable that Europe leads the way to get others to follow,” he said.
The plan delivers on a decision by European national governments in March 2007 that, in overall averages, they should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 from their 1990 levels, and ensure that 20% of energy use comes from renewable sources, such as wind and solar power. In Europe, it’s the “20-20-20 vision.”
In the unlikely event that the international community (read: U.S., China, and India) should agree on the Kyoto targets for emission levels, Europe will raise the bar and commit to 30% greenhouse gas cuts.
The EU can boast it is on track: By 2005 the bloc had cut greenhouse gas by 6% from 1990 levels and was relying on renewable sources for 8.5% of its energy. But that’s not enough, and the percentages, of course, vary widely from country to country. Small countries such as Malta and Luxembourg have practically no renewable energy sources, while in Sweden, almost 40% of energy consumed is renewable, and this nation of 9 million people has a goal to be 100% oil-free by 2020.
Most countries fall well into the middle to lower end: Germany has 5.8% renewable and must go to 18%; Britain had 1.3% renewable in 2005, and is mandated to reach 15% by 2020. France, in particular, will have some negotiating to do. Its highly successful 58 nuclear power plants produce nearly 80% of the electricity, and the country is looking to build more. Its preferred source of energy is low-carbon, but uranium is not considered a renewable source by the EU.
Reaching the targets won’t be cheap and it has the potential to change the way Europeans live and do business. There are two ways automation suppliers will benefit from these changes.
First, renewable energy construction projects call for vast amounts of instrumentation and computer control, because the energy is usually acquired in relatively small amounts across large areas and must be transferred to the electricity grid. Secondly, using energy more efficiently may have a major role in carbon reduction.
Europe wants to lead the rest of the world in energy conservation. Whether or not industrially-produced carbon dioxide has made, or will make an impact on the global environment remains conjecture, but there is one certainty we all have to accept: that the supply of fossil fuels is rapidly diminishing, and won’t last forever. The sooner we shift to alternative energy strategies, the better off we will be.
For more information on European efforts to achieve greater levels of energy efficiency, as well as to gain greater insight into the organizations that are driving innovation in the development of cost and energy saving technologies, visit www.controleng.com/global .