It is debatable just how many people and businesses in Scotland are participating in this current EU Sustainable Energy Week, given the news that climate change targets have been missed for a third year in a row, despite the Scottish Government’s ambition to grow the green economy.
With energy prices continuing to rise across Europe and the issue of energy security not going away, energy efficiency and renewable energy must remain at the top of everyone’s agenda. More importantly, we must get behind the vision for a sustainable future and embrace some of the big ideas that takin root in other parts of the world.
One recent study by Accenture and Eurelectric shows that European expenditure on electricity and gas, the product of prices and the volumes consumed, has surged by 18 per cent, from €450bn in 2008 to €532bn in 2012, electricity accounting for most of this rise. Rising prices were almost solely responsible for the jump.
Yet the study shows that by reshaping the European energy system energy expenditure could be reduced by up to €81bn a year by 2030. Improved renewable energy systems could save up to €20bn. Increased market integration could save up to €27bn; more intelligent grid management up to €15bn and improved demand response and energy efficiency up to €20bn. This requires an integrated approach, in which levers are implemented harmoniously across Europe.
The analysis, however, goes on to show that there is still a considerable gap between awareness and action. Deployment of energy efficiency has been slower than expected, as has the anticipated cost reduction of some new energy technologies. What is urgently needed is a step change in the collective mindset.
The same is true closer to home, as Scotland tries to implement its climate change and low carbon economy action plan.
The success of the new energy agenda hinges on a collaboration between the energy sector, policymakers and regulators, consumers and environmental groups to move forward together.
• Bill McDonald is managing director of Accenture Scotland