Europe’s energy sector is facing a pressing need to adapt to climate change. A resilient energy sector is essential to mitigate climate risks, ensure energy security and pave the way for a sustainable future. With climate change leading to more frequent and intense extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, storms, and floods, traditional energy infrastructure faces significant vulnerabilities. Adapting to the energy sector will involve transitioning to renewable energy sources, improving grid resilience and implementing innovative technologies.
The energy sector was one of the main discussion points during the ECCA2023 conference. On Monday 19th June, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) presented at ECCA2023 the State of the Climate Report in Europe 2022. It states that renewable energy has a promising future in Europe. In 2022, wind and solar power generated more electricity in the European Union (22.3%) in comparison to fossil gas (20%). During the launch presentation, WMO emphasised the significance of the energy sector and the increasing implications that extreme weather events, such as intense heat, heavy rainfall and droughts, have on Europe’s energy system’s supply, demand and infrastructure.
By embracing renewable energy, Europe can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance energy independence, and create a more sustainable energy mix. On Tuesday, 20th June, the session “The Role of Regulation”, chaired by Mark Ellis-Jones (UK Environment Agency), discussed the European transition to net zero. Likewise, it explored climate risks faced by the energy sector and how various regulatory interventions, including adaptation reporting and disclosure, environmental permitting and the introduction of standards, are helping the sector to transition.
On the same day, the “Climate Innovation: Examples from Ukraine” session, explained about the mobility and environmental challenges that several Eastern European countries are currently facing. Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP) and tools such as E-MoHUB were mentioned as means to address these issues by promoting sustainable transportation, reducing air pollution, improving resilience to climate change and enhancing the quality of life. The war in Ukraine has highlighted the importance of resilient energy systems amidst climate conditions and socio-economic changes. The transition to a clean and resilient energy system is costly and time-consuming, with interlinked socio-economic implications. This session exchanged knowledge on concrete adaptation and mitigation solutions worldwide.
Moreover, in the piazza, “Scenarios for resilient energy systems: a heterodox perspective”, presented by Eulàlia Baulenas (Barcelona Supercomputing Center), highlighted that adapting the energy sector to climate change will strengthen Europe’s resilience against disruptions in energy supply, safeguard critical infrastructure and protect vulnerable communities. It will also spur technological advancements, innovation and job creation in the clean energy sector.
On Wednesday, 21st June, two other sessions touched on the topics of energy efficiency and transition. The first was “Cities: Platforms, Datasets, and Tools for Urban Climate Adaptation”, chaired by Aldo Treville (European Commission, Joint Research Centre) and Marcelo Lampkowski (ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) Europe). It presented a range of projects, applications, datasets and tools related to urban climate adaptation and energy efficiency. Four tools were mentioned for urban areas, including an innovation project building green and climate-neutral city-hubs; and a toolbox for energy-efficient buildings, utilizing big data for decision-making.
The second session on Wednesday was “Social challenges in the energy transition innovation: novel technologies and approaches”, chaired by Eleni Mangina (Project HYSTORE, University College Dublin). The session highlighted lesser-known aspects of the energy transition that may help overcome both the challenges of implementing renewable energy sources and the social concerns of their adoption.
At the ECCA2023 closing ceremony, the urgency of a resilient energy sector was recognised. European policymakers, investors and other stakeholders must prioritize climate-resilient energy policies and investment strategies. By adapting the energy sector, Europe can lead the global transition towards a low-carbon economy, mitigate climate risks, and secure a resilient and sustainable future for generations to come.
Author: Monserrat Budding-Polo Ballinas