EBA reactions to EU Strategy for Energy System Integration
EBA welcomes the European Commission proposal on the Strategy for Energy System Integration which lays out a vision of a circular, decentralized energy system supported by high shares of electrification, coupled with the further deployment of renewable and low-carbon gas and other fuels.
The strategy takes the EU a step forward towards the recognition of the role of biogas and biomethane as enablers of system integration. However, the measures proposed are not considering all applications and benefits of renewable methane to make sure we can speed-up our pace towards decarbonisation and shape the energy systems of the future.
Instead of focusing merely on technologies and energy carriers that are available in the future, the EU should start the decarbonisation measures right away by promoting stronger those technologies, such as anaerobic digestion, that provide emissions savings as of today.
The initiative will support the Green Deal in achieving higher emissions reductions by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050, both targets that the biogas and biomethane industries fully endorse. Biomethane is already providing clean energy for buildings, mobility and the industrial sector while making the power sector more flexible. Biogas plays a key role in developing a more circular energy system by creating links with several sectors, including agriculture or waste management. The full deployment of renewable gases to ensure fast decarbonisation and higher sector integration should not go astray in this transition.
The strategy is aimed at developing a more circular system with the energy-efficiency-first principle at its core. Energy efficiency through system integration can only be achieved by respecting a technology-neutrality principle. The current proposal recognises the role of biogas in the transformation of organic waste into a resource, as well as in the promotion of rural circular energy communities. However, it could support more strongly the role of biomethane as a flexible and reliable renewable energy carrier, enabler of significant CO2 emissions reductions and carbon removals.
The new proposal promotes greater electrification and encourages the use of renewable and low-carbon fuels where direct heating and electrification are not possible. We should not forget that electricity, like gas, must also be further decarbonized. Most European electricity supply is still fossil (or nuclear). Additionally, batteries are mostly produced outside Europe, creating a new security of supply risk in Europe due to the limited availability of materials like lithium. The complete lifecycle of batteries, especially in the disposal phase, should be considered when assessing their environmental impact.
Renewable energy sources readily available, such as biogas and biomethane, should be further supported and scaled up right away, as they offer immediate opportunity for decarbonization, together with electrification. A truly integrated energy environment should couple electricity and gas advantages in a level playing field to reach a hybrid and cost-efficient energy system. In this sense, EBA welcomes the Commission proposal to assess the need for additional measures to support renewable and low-carbon fuels, including minimum shares or quotas in specific end-use sectors.
A smart combination of renewable electricity and gas is the cheapest and most efficient way to achieve a climate neutral energy system. An integrated energy system will facilitate the production and integration of high rate of renewable energy both electric and gaseous, taking benefits from their specific advantages: low costs of production for the electric intermittent renewables and low costs of long-term storage and transportation for the renewable gases. Renewable gas can be used, when needed, to balance and stabilize the electric grid, by means of electric generation, cogeneration or replacement of electric heat generation by gas heat generation in hybrid systems. This will also avoid massive costs of electricity grid reinforcement.
In a context of economic distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, renewable gases bring along innovation and jobs to Europe. ICEs for CNG cars and trucks are built in Europe and the biggest technology providers and producers of renewable methane, combined with numerous research institutes within EU borders.
As electricity, renewable gases should primarily be used where they bring the highest socio-economic and environmental benefits. Biomethane does not need excessive investments in new infrastructure, as it profits from the existing gas grid, gas boilers & heat pumps or CNG cars. Therefore, gaseous and liquified forms of biomethane have a great potential to substitute natural gas use in industry, heating and all transport sectors.