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EU’s ‘Radical’ Low-Carbon Plans Could Add 900,000 Jobs

The hanging gardens of One Central Park in Sydney, Australia, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. Photo: Bobarc
The hanging gardens of One Central Park in Sydney, Australia, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. Photo: Bobarc

A series of new low-carbon measures, set to be announced later this year, could boost the EU’s GDP by 1 per cent – or €190 billion – by 2030.

The economic boost would be a result of a range of new energy efficiency and renewables measures aimed at bringing about a “radical overhaul” of Europe’s energy system, EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said at a major energy industry event in Brussels on Monday (24 October).

The commissioner said the plans currently being drawn up could add as many as 900,000 jobs to Europe’s energy sector. Europe has been instrumental in making the Paris Agreement on climate change possible, Cañete said, pointing out the EU now has “some of the most ambitious climate commitments in the world.”

Jobs And Growth

With Hillary Clinton making the case for the United States to become the world’s clean energy superpower, and businesses and civil society across Europe calling for ambitious low-carbon policies, all eyes will be on the European Commission when the details of the measures are unveiled.

Just last week (21 November), Cañete was at the European Commission headquarters in Madrid to discuss the role of Climate-KIC’s climate innovation programmes in Spain’s growing economy. Back in Brussels, Cañete stressed the transition to a low-carbon economy would need to be done in a way that “creates the jobs and growth we need.”

Cañete says he expects the measures will not harm economic growth, quite the opposite. “As far as I am concerned [large-scale decarbonisation and a macroeconomic boost] go hand in hand,” he said.

Buildings Sector

The commissioner said the EU will adopt a special set of rules to boost the energy efficiency of new buildings, along with ways to boost financing options to renovate older buildings.

The EU “will focus on the sectors that have the biggest potential, such as the building sector” he said, adding that the sector accounts for an “inefficient 40 per cent” of Europe’s energy consumption.

“Two-thirds of our buildings were built before energy performance standards even existed,” Cañete stressed, pointing out that renovation rates of only 1 per cent show “how big the challenge is.”

The EU’s Climate-KIC runs a special Building Technologies Accelerator with a network of so-called ‘living labs‘ across Europe to help boost the adoption of new, innovative low-carbon technologies in buildings.

Active Consumers

The new measures will also target electricity markets, according to the EU Commission.

According to current European Union targets, half of all electricity generated in Europe should be renewable by 2030, and by 2050 electricity should be entirely carbon-free. The Commission says it will announce a specific set of measures to create the right conditions to help make this happen.

To meet the EU’s 2030 targets, Cañete said an estimated additional €177 billion will need to be invested per year, starting in 2021.

But the change in the energy market must also be driven by “a technological revolution that will give consumers a chance to become active players in the markets through demand response, self-consumption or storage,” Cañete said.

The EU Commission says consumers should be able to respond “to different price signals.” To mobilise consumers, new services and technologies that can “act as a bridge between the consumer and the market” will be essential according to Cañete.

“Smart meters come to mind first, but that is only the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Energy Generation

As a result of the new policies, small and medium sized businesses that are currently not active in the energy-generation field could actually start thinking about integrating generation into their revenue mix, Cañete said.

“Decentralisation of our power market presents increased opportunities for generation at distribution level of medium and small size,” he said.

Ultimately, aside from solving climate change, “the biggest barometer for success will be how many jobs we can create and how much investment we can unlock” Cañete concluded.

Find out how Climate-KIC climate initiatives like Low Carbon City Lab and Building Technologies Accelerator are helping to decarbonise Europe’s economy.

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