The need for policymaking to keep apace with reality received a fresh jolt this week when the International Energy Agency released a report outlining how badly decentralized energy technologies are doing in helping the world meet its Paris Climate Agreement targets.

It’s bound to be part of debate at this year’s 25th anniversary COGEN Europe Power of Heat conference in Brussels. In that quarter of a century since COGEN formed, the need for cogeneration and other decentralized energy technologies to contribute to the betterment of the planet and its inhabitants has never been more acute.

The Tracking Clean Energy Progress report, released last week by the International Energy Agency (IEA) name-checked a host of decentralized energy technologies, including heating, renewable heat, geothermal energy and energy efficiency, as not being on track.

Meanwhile those in the ‘more effort needed’ category include cooling, bioenergy, demand response and energy storage.
COGEN Europe 2018 Power of Heat banner
Only solar PV, from the DE stable achieved ‘on-track’ status, lauded by the IEA for making “tremendous progress” in 2017, but it’s not as if the other technologies aren’t keen to be all they can be; the truth is they are not yet appreciated or facilitated in the way they will have to be if targets are to be met.

“Meeting long-term sustainability goals requires an ambitious combination of more energy efficient buildings, industry and transport, and more renewables and flexibility in power,” the IEA said, indicating the way forward, but it seems the message hasn’t got through. Is it because those technologies would push aside established old order technologies and there’s a reluctance to change quickly? Does the planet have the time to spare feelings?

Some clue as to the difficulty in overcoming the past is in the detail – For the heating segment, which is ‘not on track’, the IEA said that although heat pump and renewable heating equipment sales have grown by around 5 per cent per year since 2010, carbon-intensive fossil fuel-fired equipment still represents 50 per cent of these sales and less-efficient conventional electric heating equipment represents another 25 per cent.

To meet the agency’s sustainable development target, the share of of heat pumps, renewable heating and modern district heating would need to triple to reach more than one-third of new sales by 2030.

Renewable heat would need to grow by 4 per cent per year between 2017 and 2030 to meet sustainable development goals. “This acceleration will be very challenging and requires a much greater policy focus,” the IEA added.

On Tuesday 5th June (14.45) at the Steigenberger Wiltcher’s Hotel in Brussels, a distinguished panel at COGEN Europe will have the opportunity to talk about the damning progress report, the reasons impeding progress, and the potential solutions that can clear the way towards a more effective contribution to Paris.

Panellists will include Mechthild Wörsdörfer, Director for Renewables, Research and Innovation, Energy Efficiency, DG Energy, European Commission, Miroslav Poche, Member of the European Parliament, Socialists and Democrats, Michael Steurer, Energy Attaché, Permanent Representation of Austria to the European Union, Eva Hennig, Chair of Distribution Committee, Eurogas/Thüga and Joachim Balke, Member of Cabinet of EU Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commission.

A subsequent session later that afternoon, entitled Energy Future – Hot debate and powerful ideas, will build on the earlier discussion as a forum for ideas as to how Europe’s decentralized energy industries can better be enabled.

Europe thinks of itself as being the main driver in averting the planet from disaster, and in many ways, have shown that leadership, which adds to disappointment associated with the progress report.

Our sister publication, Power Engineering International recently published an article on Jutta Kleinschmidt, the legendary race-car driver who has recently turned her attention to enabling decentralized energy through bidirectional charging of electric vehicles.

Pointing to the amount of money the taxpayer pays in terms of kilowatt hour for assisting renewable energy, she said, “We need to now use that money more to build the distribution grid in the right way – this is where we need to act as the present grid is not able to transport all this new energy anymore. The support mechanism needs to be changed in a new direction.”

It’s a telling point. Arguably the renewable energy battle has been won, and resources now need to to be diverted to the battle for decentralized energy, something the progress report has shown to be lacking. After all winning the first battle will be hollow if humanity fails to meet the below-2°C climate scenario by 2040 as specified in Paris in late 2016.