The European Union has led the world in calling for action on climate change. For 30 years, EU Member States have worked to reduce their emissions, and have advocated international cooperation to tackle this global threat. Now, as we stand on the threshold of a revolution in how the world produces and consumes energy, the question is whether the EU can turn this leadership into global competitive advantage.
At last, there are signs the EU’s leadership is bearing fruit. Last December’s Paris Agreement is galvanizing the global effort to decarbonise our economies. Hundreds of billions of euros and dollars are being invested, each year, into clean energy generation and into making our industry, built environment and transport systems more energy efficient.
This presents Europe with an enormous opportunity: domestically, in cutting our energy bills, cleaning our air and reducing our impact on the climate; but also overseas, in exporting our technology and expertise around the world, creating jobs and growth.
Decarbonisation, digitalisation, local-level empowerment and the shift from manufacturing to ‘servitised’ business models will profoundly affect Europe’s entire energy system. These forces are creating new technologies and services, such as energy storage, demand-side energy management and electric vehicles, which promise enormous benefits in terms of cost, convenience and lower emissions.
But to grasp these opportunities, Europe needs to put innovation at the heart of its energy policy. As the European Commission elaborates its Energy Union strategy, and as national and local governments plan their contribution to the union’s aims of energy security, decarbonisation and cost-efficiency, they need to create an environment that nurtures innovation in policy, technology and business models.