Medium and long-term energy plans are increasingly relevant in the fight against climate change. A few months ago, European countries presented their proposals, which included policies and actions –not too clear in some cases– and almost all were described as “unambitious”. None of them is enough to reach the objectives proposed in the Paris Agreement. Spain and France presented the best plans, at least according to the criteria of the European Climate Foundation. Others such as Portugal or Italy still need improvement.
These plans are relevant to our relationship with the environment but are not the only reason for their importance. There are other remarkable circumstances because they directly influence the priorities of the actions to be taken, whether at an economic, industrial or political level.
- Energy Autonomy and Independence. Being energy one of the building blocks of developed countries, dependence from other countries creates vulnerability in cases of political instability, supply problems or price variations. The idea is that the more self-sufficient a country is, the less it will depend on others. According to Eurostat data, countries such as Italy (77%) and Portugal (73%) are heavily dependent on energy imports (about 75% come from other countries). And although Spain had improved considerably to 70% in 2013 in the last five years its dependence worsened again to 76% because virtually all oil and gas have to be imported.
- Efficiency improvements. Improvements in energy efficiency contribute to lowering overall energy needs, costs and into a better control of resources. This includes policies such as better standards (construction, electric appliances, vehicles), energy efficiency subsidies (or -on the other hand- higher taxes on inefficiency). We shouldn’t forget the educational and awareness factor: when people learn and become used to saving and being more efficient in the use of energy, demand decreases.
- More clean energies in the mix. The underlying idea in the search for “total decarbonization” is that clean energies will increase their relevance faster in the energy production mix, as they have been doing little by little until now. For example, with the irruption of electric vehicles, the need for fossil fuels will be transformed into need for electricity. But that electricity generation will also have to be clean, since using chemical or combined cycle power stations to generate it for recharging cars simply transfers the problem elsewhere.
A need for improvement
It could be said that generally cheaper prices and improved industrial and business competitiveness through a good energy transition plan result in less need for subsidies and a reduction in the tariff deficit. As tangible effects, many of the large multinationals set up headquarters, logistics centres and factories in countries where the energy produced is clean, because they want to associate their image with the effort against the climate crisis.
Countries such as Spain are proposing good energy transition plans, which will have to be executed correctly and with apropiate actions to ensure their efficiency. On the other hand, Italy, Portugal and even Germany need to improve even more, setting out more ambitious plans in the short and medium term.
The energy transition poses major challenges in all areas, but it is not only a question of the environment, but also of competitiveness, energy independence and development.