In the context of new beginnings, each country is activating action plans to relaunch their economies. Energy efficiency and renewables can represent a huge opportunity for savings and to generate employment.
Each country is attempting to define new scenarios following the coronavirus emergency, along with new methods to relaunch their economy. What role can energy play in this process of renewal? Can this crisis become an opportunity? Here are a few examples of different ways in which countries are approaching the situation.
Europe and the Green Deal at the centre of recovery
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen speaks of a world and a Europe that are gradually recovering after coronavirus. But we should not let this slow recovery give us a false impression of the results in the fight against climate change, a disease affecting our planet that is far from defeated, and has only been temporarily eased by these months of lockdown and a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions. Global warming will continue, states von der Leyen, unless we take advantage of this difficult situation to act even more decisively and stop using fossil fuels, avoiding falling back into the old polluting habits that are destroying our planet. Recovery of the economy, and its health, like that of our planet, depend on investment in renewables, from growing use of electric cars to renovation and actions to increase the energy efficiency of our homes, the purchase of sustainable food and implementation of a circular-economy model with reuse of materials instead of their disposal. This, in essence, is the European Green Deal planned to relaunch the economy and make it more resilient, transforming the coronavirus crisis into an opportunity.
According to MEPs, the Green Deal must therefore remain at the centre of the plan for economic recovery following coronavirus, and this is necessarily reflected in Europe’s Recovery Plan as presented on 27 May in the Adjusted Commission Work Programme 2020.
As stated by President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, even though Europe is a single market and recovery is inconceivable unless it is based on collaboration between Member States, each government is taking actions to relaunch its own country, also by incentivising reduced energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions.
The situation in Italy: the “Relaunch Decree” and “Superbonus”
Italy is approaching its relaunch with a far-reaching decree named the “Relaunch Decree”. In relation to energy efficiency, the Decree proposes a “Superbonus”, a strengthened incentive aimed to promote the relaunch of the construction sector whilst also increasing the average energy efficiency of Italian residential buildings, which currently have an average energy rating of class G. The Superbonus incentive consists of 110% tax-deductibility over a five-year period: any works included must allow improvement in the building’s energy rating by two rating classes, or where this is impossible, the highest class, with submission of an energy certificate.
In addition, the Decree offers the possibility of a discount on the bill for works with relative allocation of credit. This allows a discount to be requested directly from the company performing works, which can in turn claim this back in the form of tax credit. The company can also decide to transfer the credit to banks and financial intermediaries.
The main works covered are significant energy-efficiency actions and seismic retrofitting that allow a real jump in the quality of the home. This includes thermal insulation, replacement of central heating systems and seismic retrofitting. These beneficial works allow application of the 110% deductibility figure also for other works of primary importance for energy independence: installation of a photovoltaic system, with or without a storage system, addition of storage to an existing system or the installation of an electric-vehicle charging station.
Although the UK has not yet integrated a recovery package based on renewables and energy efficiency, certain legislation introduced prior to the pandemic was already targeted at the overall improvements in energy efficiency that Italy is aiming for with its Superbonus 2020. Since April 2018, rental properties must have at least energy class E and since April 2020 this requirement has been extended to cover existing contracts. The maximum spending limit is £ 3,500.
Unlike in Italy, the British government does not provide incentives in the form of grants, focusing instead on obligations for sustainable works that are accessible via incentivised loans, also partially supported by the ECO (Energy Company Obligation)
In terms of supporting renewables, the UK has currently extended the deadline of the FIT scheme by six months for applications which have already expired since 1 March 2020 and those which will expire before 30 September.
Around the world: the proposals in Australia
The Australian federal government is also looking for a solution to stimulate the economy by taking advantage of economic energy sources, whilst also hitting the 2050 zero-emissions target. This is why it has shown particular interest in hydrogen technologies and solutions focused on carbon capture and storage. Meanwhile, the third largest Australian party by vote, the Australian Greens, are pushing for renewables: “Invest to recover” is the action plan proposed by the party, not to return to normal but rather to redefine an improved version of normal. In the words of the party’s leader Adam Bandt: “Change is not only possible, it’s essential”, and the key to this improved and more sustainable normal is to invest in renewable-energy infrastructure, in manufacturing and public sectors, generating employment across the board.
The Tasmanian Liberal Government has identified renewable energy as a key economic driver as we rebuild a stronger Tasmania.
Tasmania can harness the immense potential in renewable energy to grow our economy, attract investment, create jobs and transform Tasmania from being Australia’s renewable energy powerhouse into a world leader of clean, reliable and affordable energy.
These were the words of premier of the liberal government of Tasmania, Peter Gutwein, also Minister for Climate Change, on announcing the Renewable Energy Action Plan published on 13 May 2020 to achieve the 200% renewable energy target, corresponding to 21,000 GWh, by 2040. With an expanding energy sector such as that of renewables in Tasmania, the government expects generation of thousands of jobs and an increase in investment up to 7 billion by 2030.
In modern democracies, each citizen has at least two tools available to express their view on how things should develop: their vote and their choices as a consumer. The latter merits further discussion in light of the post-Covid-19 recovery, with various important aspects to consider based on lessons learnt.
For example, informed consumption choices can have an impact on the fight against exploitation of animals and the environment, with all of the knock-on effects in terms of biodiversity, CO2 emissions and the greenhouse effect, or the fight against widespread overuse of plastic packaging that is unnecessary for the relative contents. Informed consumer choices can also be made based on the origin and seasonality of products.
One consideration is particularly important to us, and that is informed choices regarding energy consumption: less use of hydrocarbons burned in large power stations and more local energy from small-scale, distributed renewables; ideally shared and structured to benefit everybody. Such choices, compared to typical generation, transformation, transport and distribution of energy from conventional sources, represent a turning point for the entire energy sector and if widely adopted allow a complete paradigm shift in the energy scenario. There is significant progress and improvement for the environment and the local economy, generation of jobs for entire process chains, savings for users and reduced waste.
The technology is already available, and Regalgrid is active and successful proof of this. The Digital Energy Platform developed by Regalgrid to serve various types of groupings, virtual power plants and energy communities, allows unprecedented disruptive scenarios. With Regalgrid, it is now possible to economically harness solar inverters of different brands, distributed storage, heat pumps and electric-vehicle charging stations. We have entered an exciting new phase, supported by legislation and incentives in various countries. All that remains is to choose the right fit for each of us.