Our Renewable Energy World web conference at the end of April looked at some of the challenges – and opportunities – facing European countries as they head towards the 2020 targets for renewables. That’s for 20% of the region’s entire energy consumption to be met by renewable energy, not just electricity, but heating and transport as well. One of the things discussed was how this is likely to be made up. The European Renewable Energy Council (www.erec.org) has a 2020 Renewable Energy Roadmap in which it – together with the main European renewable industry associations – has calculated that of that 20%, electric power is likely to account for about 9% and transport biofuels about 2.5%.
The remaining 10% or 11% – that is, just over half of the total 20% – is expected to be achieved through renewable heating and cooling. That’s solar hot water and heating, biomass and geothermal. Using those technologies replaces oil, electric heating and natural gas. In some parts of Europe, there has been little progress so far, but others are shining examples. In one leading region, Upper Austria, renewable heating is already meeting 45% of the entire heat requirement.
Meanwhile I’ve been in the United States, where the American Wind Energy Association’s event drew 23,000 people, many of them newcomers to the wind industry. For the US is looking to renewables – and most particularly to its highly successful wind sector – to regrow the economy, provide jobs, reduce the nation’s dependency on oil imports and reduce carbon emissions.
The hot topic in the US right now is not so much whether, but when a national renewable portfolio standard will be introduced to stimulate the use of renewables across the country. It would mean that every US state would require its electric utilities to source a certain percentage of its electricity from renewables. It’s an exciting prospect. At the conference, more than one eminent speaker said that the United States had not really had an energy policy for 40 years, and that now is the chance to set it right.
But wait! Might there be something missing? Electric power is only part of the answer. Surely renewable heating and cooling have at least as much to offer in North America (and elsewhere) as they do in Europe, in replacing oil, electric heating and natural gas and in reducing carbon emissions? There’s the potential for thousands of manufacturing and installation jobs, too, and virtually any US state can tap into these resources – not only those with a substantial wind resource. Yet as one US policy expert told me ‘almost nobody’s looking at heat.’
Perhaps now might be a good time to do that. There’s an industry waiting to deliver.
P.S. It’s conference season again, and the Renewable Energy World team looks forward to seeing you at the many events we’ll be attending – and especially at our own Renewable Energy World Europe event in Cologne, 26–28 May. See www.renewableenergyworld-europe.com for more information.