The report, Sector Coupling in Europe: Powering Decarbonization, from clean energy research group BloombergNEF, Statkraft, Europe’s largest renewable energy producer, and energy efficiency group Eaton, says that the three sectors could see a revolution in their energy use over the next three decades, leading to a drastic cut in their emissions. It outlines a plausible pathway of electrification, taking account of current levels of policy ambition in countries like the UK and Germany. Victoria Cuming, head of global policy analysis for BNEF, commented: “Electrification, or ‘sector coupling’ as it’s known in some countries, could make a huge contribution to the achievement of governments’ emission-reduction targets by exploiting the low-carbon transition already under way in the power generation sector.”
Forbes 13th Feb 2020 read more »
This strategy — for which I use the shorthand “electrify everything!” — is beginning to catch on, especially in California, which is always something of a preview of broader trends to come. In a relatively short span of time, a robust “all-electric movement” has emerged, as dozens of towns and cities take steps to encourage all-electric construction in new buildings. Natural gas utilities do not like this movement one bit. The more all-electric buildings there are, the fewer natural gas ratepayers there are. An all-electric future inevitably involves the obsolescence, or at least the substantial diminution, of natural gas utilities. Naturally, they are fighting back furiously, with astroturf groups, PR campaigns, and lobbying at the local level. Their main argument — playing out with particular intensity in California — has to do with “renewable natural gas” (RNG), an industry term for methane captured from biogenic (organic) waste at landfills, livestock operations, farms, and sewage treatment facilities. (It is sometimes called “biogas” or “biomethane.”) RNG can, depending on feedstock and circumstances, be low or even zero-carbon. Utilities argue that ramping up the production of RNG and blending it with normal natural gas in pipelines can reduce GHGs faster and cheaper than electrifying buildings. By pursuing electrification, they say, regulators are pushing unnecessary cost hikes onto consumers. It would be nice for the utilities if this were true. But it’s not. RNG is not as low-carbon as the industry claims and its local air and water impacts are concentrated in vulnerable communities. Even if it were low-carbon and equitable, there simply isn’t enough of it to substitute for more than a small fraction of natural gas. And even if it were low-carbon, equitable, and abundant, it still wouldn’t be an excuse to expand natural gas infrastructure or slow electrification.
VOX 14th Feb 2020 read more »