Dear members, peers, and friends,
There is no doubt this has been an exceptional year, that has challenged us all in different ways. But as the saying goes, where there is challenge there is opportunity.
This is the last Eurogas Molecules newsletter for 2020 and I am proud to reflect on the accomplishments of the association this year.
We have been delighted to welcome six new members to our association. We have hosted 15 online events since April, welcoming over two thousand guests to our discussions, and participated in many others. We have launched our study, A Pathway to 2050: The Role of Gas, demonstrating the significant savings that can be made by using gas in key areas of the economy to meet the EU decarbonisation targets.
For the last few weeks we have been running a series of Gas Tech Talks, demonstrating the exciting and innovative clean gas technologies being designed and deployed in Europe. With the right support, these can develop a whole new industry, providing jobs in the EU and export opportunities across the world.
This has only been possible through the hard work of the team in Brussels, so I thank each of them for that, as well as the ongoing commitment of our members. Our members support, dedication and trust allow the Eurogas Secretariat to participate in the conversations at the very core of European energy policy, and the future of Europe’s climate legislation.
I hope you enjoy this issue of Molecules. It offers a brief insight into just some of the work we have accomplished in the last four weeks, as well as the more personal message from the team to all of you at the end of this year.
Thank you for joining us, and we look forward to our ongoing relationship in 2021.
Stay well, my sincere greetings of the season and let us hope for a great new year!
At the end of an unusual year, the Eurogas team reflect on the things that surprised them, things that made them laugh, and what they are looking forward to in 2021.
On 3 December Eurogas in cooperation with our member ACUE in Romania hosted the sixth annual Central and Eastern European Conference, to discuss the challenges facing this region in particular as we work to deliver a climate neutral future. Eurogas President Philippe Sauquet delivered the opening key-note speech, and highlighted how Central and Eastern Europe is a uniquely important part of the European Union.
‘Gas consumption and use of gas for heating, hot water and cooking is growing every year – perhaps as many as 100,000 new customers chose gas in 2019 in Romania, demonstrating significant public acceptance of gas and gas use. However, this is not a stand-alone experience in this part of Europe. Just a little further south of Romania, in Greece, consumers also benefit from gas as more households are switching to use gas, often in conjunction with renewable energy in the form of solar thermal systems.
A poll by Eurogas last year found very favourable sentiment towards gas in Greece and many of the countries in Europe. The versatility and affordability of gas are attractive attributes. Yet despite this strong appreciation of the flexibility of gas around Europe, the future of natural gas is unclear. The European Union has moved to set the target of carbon neutrality by 2050, and in doing so brought forward a strategy that estimated a reduction in the use of natural gas by 2050.’
This thinking has been reflected in some of the recent legislation being developed by the European institutions. For example, the sustainable finance initiative questions the role of natural gas as a transition fuel, by applying strict thresholds on the consumption of natural gas for power and heat. It is the opinion of Eurogas that such policies harm the intended objective – to achieve carbon neutrality – by potentially locking in the use of coal for many more years rather than providing a framework to move away to cleaner alternatives for power and heating. In Eurogas we have embraced the energy transition, supporting climate neutrality in 2050 and an ambitious carbon reduction target of at least 55% by 2030.
We must have the right policy framework to deliver these objectives and we must not be prejudiced against technologies that can deliver quick and affordable solutions for the problem of carbon emissions today. Replacing coal, oil and un-sustainable biomass in heating will improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in countries in central and eastern Europe in particular. This should be encouraged.
The European Investment Bank in its new lending guidelines will continue to finance projects to install small efficient gas boilers in buildings, recognising the immediate benefits this brings for the climate and the environment. These are the type of sensible policies that we need in the EU to deliver an energy transition, whilst keeping the interests of people at the heart of what we are doing to fight climate change.
We understand there will be much change, and our recent study also predicts a reduction in use of natural gas by 2050 in the EU. But this does not mean the end of gaseous fuels by any stretch of the imagination. In Eurogas we have predicted a reduction in the use of natural gas by 2050, but a strong growth in the use of biomethane and hydrogen – produced both from natural gas and renewable electricity. Countries around Europe and the European Commission are quickly drawing up strategies to develop hydrogen.
For example, biomethane can be produced sustainably in many parts of Europe, including here in Romania – utilising agricultural waste and also waste streams from cities and wastewater. This can be blended into the gas system and deliver even cleaner fuel to the gas customers. This quickly contributes to the aim of reducing carbon emissions. Hydrogen will also be a key component of the energy system in the future, not only for industry and transport – but also for heating and power. Our recent study confirms this synopsis, demonstrating that using gaseous fuels in heating will save the EU taxpayers 12 trillion Euros between now and 2050, compared to trying to electrify heat to the extent modelled by the European Commission. In Eurogas we believe that the policy framework to deliver these new gases should include targets for both the reduction in greenhouse gas intensity of gaseous fuels and the percentage of renewable gas consumed by 2030. This will provide investor certainty and deliver quick reductions in cost of these new gases.
The further good news about the energy transition and utilising gas, is that Europe is the home of the manufacturing of gas technology – gas turbines and engines, electrolysers, carbon capture and storage equipment, anaerobic digesters for biogas and hydrogen ready small efficient boilers – all are made here in the EU, for you the citizens of Europe.
No other energy vector offers the same level of European technology leadership as the gas sector, nor the potential in non-seasonal quality production jobs. Eurogas is currently running a campaign to raise awareness of these European technologies so please do go to our website and social media channels to learn more about these European clean tech champions. Developing and delivering an energy transition with a strong gaseous fuel element is a win-win for Europe – and for Romania.’
The third in our series of Gas Tech Talks – a series of short interviews with companies around Europe who are progressing the energy transition through innovative clean energy technologies – focusses on Finnish company Wärtsilä that are reinventing engine design.
Eurogas welcomes the European Council conclusions of 10 and 11 December as a necessary step on the journey to carbon neutrality by 2050.
In particular, we welcome the emphasis on the need for cost-effective solutions to reach those targets and welcome the explicit recognition of the role of gas in its ability to do this, as well as the need to address distributional concerns and energy poverty in line with our work on a Just Transition, including a Joint Statement from the Social Partners of the European Sectoral Dialogue on Gas as well as our webinar Ensuring a Just Transition to Climate Neutrality, discussed below.
With regards to the European Council’s conclusion on the European Hydrogen Strategy, we also welcome recognition of the need to value positive externalities of gas, such as hydrogen as well as the need for low-carbon hydrogen and carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) to reach these targets.
Most critically, Eurogas proposes that gaseous energy in heating must be widely accepted if a cost-effective transition is to be achieved, as discussed in the Eurogas study, A Pathway to a Carbon Neutral 2050: The Role of Gas, published in June 2020.
The European social partners in the gas industry EPSU, Eurogas and IndustriAll Europe have collaborated to produce a joint statement emphasising the importance of a Just Transition, which guarantees quality jobs for European citizens in the process of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, called The Joint Statement from the Social Partners of the European Sectoral Dialogue on Gas.
The idea is to recognise the vital role the gas sector will play in achieving our climate objectives and the opportunities that new gas technologies offer for the European workforce to have quality, stable and non-seasonal jobs, while granting affordable solutions for customers.
The main purpose of the statement is to urge the Commission to place the social dimension at the core of the Green Deal, securing employment and ensuring access to energy for all.
The initiative will be presented in a webinar Ensuring a Just Transition to Climate Neutrality on 16 December, offering the opportunity for constructive discussion about the Just Transition, together with the MEPs Dennis Radtke (EPP) and Agnes Jongerius (S&D). Their commitment within the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs will give a critical perspective on such an important topic for the future of Europe.