cleantech news

European Green Deal, hydrogen and plastic: three hot topics cleantech businesses should keep their eyes on

Cleantech News #1: The EU integrates energy in its Green Deal

What is happening?

The EU has recently adopted strategies for energy system integration and hydrogen, aligning with the European Green Deal announced last December.

The EU Strategy for Energy System Integration will provide the framework for the green energy transition, moving away from the current silo model which cannot deliver climate neutrality by 2050 in a cost-efficient way.

The strategy is based around three elements:

  • A more circular energy system where energy efficiency is the first consideration;
  • The use of cleaner electricity produced from renewable sources;
  • The promotion of renewable and low-carbon fuels, including hydrogen, for hard-to-decarbonise sectors.

Why should cleantech businesses be paying attention?

Unlike in the current silo model, energy system integration considers the energy system as a whole across multiple energy carriers, infrastructure and consumption sectors. Ultimately, it creates stronger links between them to deliver low-carbon, reliable and resource-efficient energy services, at the least possible cost for society.

This integrated approach provides many opportunities for cleantech companies involved in renewables to become the next energy market leaders. As the EU is currently importing 58% of its energy needs, renewable energy companies can help to decrease the EU’s dependence on fossil fuels and fossil fuels imports.

Opportunities are not just limited to energy producers, however. Companies involved in facilitating the integration of renewable energy into the grid and guaranteeing better flexibility of the overall network will also have a crucial role to play in shaping the new energy industry.

This new integrated approach means that more cleantech companies will get to play a part in shaping the energy market, even those not directly involved in the energy industry. The new European energy strategy mainly focuses on district heating, smart grids and appliances, digital tools to support the integration of electric vehicles, hydrogen supply and demand-side equipment. All these industries will have a central role to play in shaping the new energy industry of tomorrow. Expect to see further talks around decentralised energy, prosumer communities and vehicle-to-grid solutions in the near future too.

Cleantech News #2: Hydrogen’s time to shine?

What is happening?

The EU is aiming to become the world leader in hydrogen by creating a multi-billion-EURO market by 2050 that will support the creation of up to one million jobs.

Developing a prosperous and robust hydrogen industry will ultimately help to reach greenhouse gas reduction targets in sectors labelled as hard-to-decarbonise, such as heavy industry, shipping and aviation.

The European Commission’s three-step plan starts with the construction of electrolysers to produce green hydrogen – hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources – for use in industries up to 2024. This will be followed by the creation of local hydrogen production hotspots by 2030. Lastly, clean hydrogen technologies should reach maturity and be utilised at large scale in heavy industry between 2030-2050.

Why should cleantech businesses be paying attention?

An IRENA report from September 2019 projected that an 8% share of total global final energy consumption would be attributed to hydrogen by 2050, with hydrogen producers and fuel-cell manufacturers to be the first to benefit from the EU’s push.

Even though the hydrogen strategy will focus on green hydrogen in the long-term, blue hydrogen – produced from fossil fuels and made carbon neutral through the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies – will play a back-up role in the short to medium term. This marks a real vote of confidence in CCS start-ups, which up until recently were struggling to secure investment and find large-scale consumers.

However, the use of blue hydrogen has drawn criticism from both environmentalists and renewable energy companies, especially in Germany, for maintaining Europe’s reliance on fossil fuels. Renewable energy companies can seize the opportunity to push for further investments in green hydrogen, strategically position themselves as solution providers and build a reputation as industry thought leaders.

Cleantech News #3: Is oil-based plastic making a comeback?

What is happening?

At the end of 2019, plastic was very much out of favour. Legislations were being passed and companies were either turning to alternatives or banning its use altogether. Then came COVID-19. As countries and businesses had to tackle the immediate public health threat posed by the virus, the wave of actions against oil-based plastic was almost entirely deprioritised overnight.

In the UK alone, billions of pieces of single-use plastic personal protective equipment were produced and distributed in March and April and are now littering landscapes and polluting waterways. In some cities, local governments were forced to decrease plastic recycling in an effort to enable social distancing and reduce costs. Refill initiatives were put on pause and plant-based alternatives were overlooked in favour of cheaper oil-based counterparts.

Why should cleantech companies be paying attention?

Despite a definite drawback in increasing the use of plant-based plastic alternatives and improving recycling rates, consumer attitudes towards plastics have not changed.

A study by Amcor that surveyed 4000 consumers across Europe showed that half of respondents would buy a product purely because it is housed in compostable packaging. Meanwhile, another study by Tipa which polled over 2000 UK adults found that 67% of respondents were concerned about increased plastic waste during lockdown, while 85% would like to see compostable packaging replacing traditional plastic packaging where possible.

Bioeconomy companies and businesses involved in the circular economy can utilise these findings to communicate about their solutions and demonstrate that consumers’ interest has not decreased. Both in terms of media coverage and opportunities to build a reputation as a thought leader, now is the time to act and put your name out there. 

If you think that your cleantech business can make a difference in one of the topics discussed but you don’t know where to start, we’re here to help! Book a free consultation with us to discuss how we could help you become a champion of cleantech. We’d love to hear from you.

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