It’s September, everyone is back in Brussels from their summer break. Although the Covid crisis is still ongoing and economic recovery solutions are still in debate, the EU is pushing ahead with its climate and energy agenda, and hopefully including it into stimulus packages for a green recovery.
Indeed, EuropeOn has been asserting this since before talks on recovery instruments started: investing in climate solutions is the best way out of this crisis, as it also serves to address the energy transition. In unisson with an ever increasing number of actors, such as MEP Pascal Canfin’s Call for Mobilisation or alliances such as he Electrification alliance and the Platform for Electro-Mobility, we have underlined the economic and employment potential of climate investments. While entire value chains can agree on the effectiveness of a green recovery, electrical contractors embody the link between investments in climate and job creation. How so? Well, let’s look at the autumn agenda to make this clear.
Climate Law & 2030 targets
The eagerly awaited Climate Law, finally enshrining the climate neutrality objective by 2050 into EU law, offers some equally awaited predictability to the green economy and to its stakeholders. It is now clear that Europe wants to set a clear end-goal that will also serve as a guide for intermediary steps. Indeed, as this Climate Law is approved the EU will have to set higher 2030 objectives to ensure the 2050 one is met.
While an impact assessment is still underway, the Commission seems positive that the 2030 target will be raised. That means that we will see an increase in green investments that will be incremental in the years to come. Such investments will benefit electrical contractors as the workforce behind electrification, and clean energy installations. With a majority share of SMEs, this predictability offered by such strong political goals will allow electrical contractors to invest in skills and in their human capital to respond to the increasing demand for clean energy technologies that will result from energy transition policies.
Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Directives
The Commission has just started the revision process for those two key directives from the Clean Energy Package. But why do electrical contractors care?
Buildings account for about 40% of final energy consumption in the EU and transport for about a third. And it is exactly in these areas that electrical contractors are the most active. With the recent announcement on Energy System Integration, electrification should receive a significant boost. This means electrifying end-uses in buildings, mainly heating, and in transport, with electric vehicles. In both cases electrical contractors will be involved and are a keystone in the implementation of electrification strategies.
In buildings, electrical contractors are solicited to install renewable generation capacities, mainly solar PV, and then to link that to the grid or to other electrical devices, such as a battery storage, electric heat-pumps or even an EV charger (highlighting sectoral integration). On top of on-site renewable generation and end-uses, electrification comes with the highest energy efficiency, and again, offers great business opportunities for electrical contractors. Indeed, energy management with smart devices can yield significant energy savings, when installed properly, i.e. by a qualified installer.
For transport, the answer is simple: electric vehicles. While until a few years ago EVs were not taken seriously as a real-world alternative to ICE cars, they have recently seen a significant increase in sales. As the Renewable Energy Directive aims to increase the share of renewables in end-uses, electric vehicles should be incentivised, and especially in combination with solar PV (and prosumer storage). In this case, consumers can be certain that the energy used in their cars is not only clean but their own. And this is where you really need skilled electrical tradesmen to install both the PV system but also the charging equipment, and then integrate the two in the residential electrical system and make sure the consumption of this renewable electricity is optimised and that energy efficiency is at its highest.
Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility
Expected towards the end of the year, this announcement should go further into the transport decarbonisation pathways and highlight the smart and digital aspects of e-mobility. Clearly, electricity is the energy carrier of choice when digitalisation and smart energy come into play. With smart charging and Vehicle-to-Grid, EVs can deliver 20% of needed flexibility by 2050, according to the EU System Integration Strategy. This potential cannot go untapped and should make EVs a central node in a decarbonised and integrated energy system.
Again, electrical contractors are essential here, as they will be in high demand when electricity becomes the main transport fuel and the new charging infrastructure needs attention. This entails the installation of charging equipment but also the operation and maintenance needed to ensure the chargers actually work yer-round, as consumer acceptance will never happen if they are consistently faced with out-of-order chargers.
Charging points will need to be installed in homes, offices and public spaces, and they will need to adapt to exogenous factors. This means reacting to the buildings’ solar generation profile in parallel with its energy demand or to the grid during peaks. All of this work requires highly skilled electrical contractors able to tackle the most modern electric technologies.
Presented as the flagship initiative of the Green Deal, it is eagerly awaited by all stakeholders in the construction value chain. With the ambition to at least double renovation rates across the EU, this could entail a surge in activity for many sectors as renovations are know to be labour-intensive, more than new builds.
For electrical contractors, doubling renovation rates could create up to 270k jobs across the EU. But this initiative must foster integrated renovations that nurture the clean energy options described above. This means renovating the ageing electrical systems found in European houses that were never built to accommodate all the electric devices we now use in our daily lives.
However, the EU has been quite silent about the shape and scope of this initiative and signs point to a slight decrease in ambition from the institutions. As this Wave should be part of the heavily-debated recovery funds, there is a possibility of its endowment being watered down and blended with other programmes. More on this in our dedicated article.