Negawatts, i.e. let’s save energy instead of building blocks

Bloomberg

Poland’s energy policy until 2040 doesn’t take global trends into account.

The just published draft „Energy Policy of Poland until 2040” does not talk about energy policy but about how to maintain the coal structure of the energy sector.

Unfortunately, it does not take into account global trends. In 2030, coal is to still dominate the energy sector and it will be used in 60% for the production of electricity whereas renewable energy sources are to account for 21 percent of final energy consumption and 6-9 GW will be generated by nuclear energy by 2043. And at the end of this document (literally) 23 percent improvement in energy efficiency is expected in 2030 compared to 2007. The freshly adopted EU directive mentions a 32.5 percent target by 2030 compared to the „business as usual” scenario. The National Energy Conservation Agency, on the other hand, estimates that 30-35 percent of energy can be saved, cost-effectively. The overall comparison clearly shows that something that should be the starting point for policy preparation is almost ignored, and if it were not for the EU requirements, this would not be too much of a concern.

Towards effectiveness

So what is this energy efficiency? It defines how much energy we need to use to produce a product or deliver a service. This has a significant impact on the competitiveness and cost of these products and services for consumers and households and gives considerable direct and indirect benefits. Reading this from the point of view of negawatts, instead of building new electricity, heat or fuel generation capacity, it is possible to invest in reducing demand for them at a much lower overall cost. At the same time, we are building a strong market for energy efficiency services, strengthening the local economy and creating local jobs.

The greatest potential for improving energy efficiency lies in buildings and the construction industry.

First of all, this concerns the limitations in the supply of heat. This is where thermal upgrading comes first, reducing the final demand – through improving the quality of the building, replacing windows and doors, managing the exchange of air. This is followed by modernization of internal systems and their control systems. It is important to integrate the efficiency improvement with the development of RES, including the active outdoor area of the building, which leads to a reduction in energy supply from the outside.

A solution of the future, which is already becoming a reality, is fitting the building with the power supply for electric cars and creation of energy storage capacity in buildings. In all this we must not forget about shaping the right attitudes among users not only related to buying efficient devices or pro-circular behaviour, but also to becoming active participants of the energy market (prosumers), contributing to its effective distribution.

The issue of air pollution is closely related to the energy efficiency of buildings. In this respect, Poland is the most polluted country in the EU. Polski Alarm Smogowy (Polish Smog Alarm) estimates that over 70% of single-family houses are not insulated or poorly insulated, and at the same time 70% of them are heated with coal – very often in low-efficient furnaces.

You have to perceive this challenge as an opportunity and not as a cost. According to WiseEurope, it is possible to launch a programme of through thermal upgrading with support for the development of micro installation of renewable energy sources. This would help save 12% of the national energy demand in 2030.

The cost of the programme exceeds PLN 250 billion, but the public support amounts to PLN 58 billion. The source of the support may be the European Emissions Trading System, where in the period 2021-2030 it is estimated that Poland will receive PLN 50-100 billion. Such a programme is an impulse for the Polish economy and compared to the reference scenario, it would contribute to the GDP growth of about 1.2% in 2030.

Areas of savings

The second important area is construction, where the creation of new energy-efficient, zero or plus energy buildings, has a significant impact on energy efficiency in the future. We are no longer talking about high standard well insulated buildings, but also intelligent buildings with energy management and self-production, storage and electrification of services.

The scale of the possibilities is evidenced by the fact that in 2017 alone, over 72,000 buildings were built in Poland. According to the directive, soon public buildings (from 2019), and from 2021 all buildings are to be almost zero energy buildings. This means that energy consumption should be almost zero or very low and that energy should come, to a large extent, from renewable energy sources, including energy produced on or near the building. Unfortunately, under Polish conditions it was assumed that such a standard would amount to 70 kWh/m2/year. For example, in Denmark the requirement is 20 kWh/m2/year, and in Ireland 45 kWh/m2/year.

The third area is transport, where heading in the new direction towards electric and autonomous cars will be important for energy efficiency. Spatial planning, which is in a lamentable condition in Poland, can have a significant impact on efficient transport. Shaping transport-efficient spatial structures would significantly reduce the need for energy for its functioning. It is also worth paying attention to other aspects that influence the energy efficiency of transport, such as the shaping of sustainable mobility, development of public transport, intelligent organisation, and in the future – economy based on knowledge, services, Internet communication, Internet of Things etc.

It is worth remembering that the world economy is dominated by low-carbon products and services, stimulated by eco-innovation, which leads to cost savings and higher energy and resource productivity. The market for low-carbon technologies in the world has exceeded $5.5 trillion.

The author is an expert on sustainable development policy of the „Institute for Sustainable Development” Foundation.

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