June 20, 2008
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=bG3XNOtf-yc Without the technologies provided by the electrical manufacturing and electronics industries, Europe will not be able to reach its climate and energy targets. Therefore, keeping these industries on board and getting consumers both professional and private to take up energy efficient products is a must. The Electra report, drafted by an expert group including industry, the European Commission, standardisers and trade unions that is being launched June 25th explains it in simple terms; “we can do it”.
Tackling climate and energy problems, who can be against this today? Ever since the Stern Report came out, even the harshest sceptics have begun to become pragmatic. If you are in the drivers’ seat and two of your passengers tell you that the traffic light is red, wouldn’t you stop? Or would you rather take a chance and take that crossing at full speed? Of course you would not. From every point of view it seems a sensible thing to become more energy efficient and to cut down on CO2-emissions. Everybody realizes this now.
But when it comes to action, there seems to be less enthusiasm – whether among politicians or consumers. It is easier to point a finger at the industry. The reason is clear: it is pretty hard to get people to change their habits. Even if industry does already provide energy efficient products, it is often difficult to get consumers to take them up. Oftent he problem is price. For instance: if the Dutch government puts an extra climate tax on flying, many Dutchmen simply turn to German or Belgian airports to save money. And which politician will ever succeed in getting the Belgians and the Germans to leave their cars at home? So it’s politically correct to have companies do the trick: save energy and cut down on CO2-emission. Even if industrial processes are responsible for only 17% of the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions (compared with 14% transportations fuels and 21 % power stations, 12 % agricultural by-products), companies are easiest to target for policymakers.
There are two main reasons why companies in the electrical and electronics industries are needed to reach our common climate and energy goals. Not only will they not escape cutting down on their own emissions and becoming more energy efficient in their own processes; but more importantly, technological innovations are urgently needed to have other economic sectors reach their targets as well. Experts who drafted the Electra report spell out clearly that innovations in the electrical and electronics industry, which are already available, can lead to major energy savings in 2020 for residential buildings (27% in 2020), commercial buildings (30%), transport (26%) and for the manufacturing industry (25%). But to achieve this, it is essential that the conditions for the Electra industry and for their customers are just right.
It might be true that industry is part of the problem (albeit for a modest share), but industry is unquestionably the major part of the solution. To put it more strongly: without the cooperation of the electric and electronics industries there will be no reaching of any political target in the field of energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions.
So how create the conditions for the Electra-industries to live up to those expectations? The report provides a series of recommendations, some of them easy to apply, others much more difficult. Public authorities will have to set harmonized energy efficiency targets for different sectors of the economy: why harmonise them, just to maintain a level playing field; some regulation will therefore be required, but at the same time overregulation in the field of eco-design should be avoided: this just risks undermining innovation. It’s better to keep the rules plain and simple. Next the authorities should step up market surveillance in order to give the home grown technologies a fair chance against foreign counterfeiters or imported products which do not respect our laws. For there is no use investing in energy efficient technology, if companies in other parts of the world walk away with the profits. Lastly, public authorities are needed to direct investments into – for instance – retrofitting of buildings. On the basis of studies that map CO2-abatement opportunities and the notion of marginal cost curves, the Electra-working group pointed out that the biggest energy efficiency gains can be achieved in commercial and residential buildings. And a change like this will not happen by itself: consumers will need financial or fiscal encouragement to adopt more energy efficient lighting systems, home appliances and energy management systems. Public acceptance may well prove to be a major bottleneck in making climate and energy gains possible.
European governments will therefore need all the help of the electrical and electronics industry they can get to reach the 2020-goals that they committed to.
Europe’s electrical and electronics industries will supply the action, -they can do it, but not without the wholehearted enthusiasm of politicians and consumers.