The crisis should cement our commitment to the Green Deal and hasten the need for a green, digital and resilient recovery

By Morten Helveg Petersen, MEP (Renew Europe - Denmark) Vice-Chair ITRE Committee

We do not have the time to set a pause on the green transition – time is essential, so let’s make the current crisis an opportunity to cement our commitment to a green recovery of Europe.

The current COVID-19 crisis has already had considerable negative effects on the European economies. The responses from the European Union and its member states are of an equal size in properties to help the economy recover, but we must make sure that they are solutions of the right measure for the future.

A green transition and decarbonatization of the European economy is still a fundamental issue of an equal size before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. No matter the scale of the current health crisis, the climate problems will still be there to be solved – and time is essential.

I believe that a Green Recovery Plan can help in the fight of both problems by restarting the economy in greener way.

We can secure the future of the European economy and still fight global warming and its climate issues, we just need to make sure that the money spent to help the European businesses and economy is spent on creating sustainable jobs and researching a green future.

The recovery package of 750 billion euros is no doubt a tremendous investment, and has the potential to give a great lift to the European Economy, but has equally the potential to fight the climate changes and commit the Union to the Green Deal.

Electrification and renovation of the union

The recovery plan is a great opportunity to push the gas paddle, such that we get a greater push for the development of green solutions both in the electric power grid and green solutions in the European society though a “Renovation Wave”.

Although most of the member countries are building windmills, solar fields and other great sources of green power in a growing scale,

this crisis and the crisis fund needs to push the development further and not be a cushion of hesitation.

In the same way, one of the major projects of the recovery plan is to start a “Renovation Wave”. Hereby we can generate jobs in the renovation of buildings throughout Europe. An example is the decarbonization of the heat sector with heat pumps and districts heating and cooling (DHC). Expanding the DHC network in Europe has the possibility of creating 220.000 jobs until 2050 while creating a more resilient and green energy supply for the households, that has a lower dependency on fossil fuels.

Don’t let the energy go to waste

Another important step for us to secure the decarbonization of the whole society, is by optimizing the production of renewable energy. We need to invest in options to store green energy, which is not being consumed instantly – that includes the wind energy produced at night and the sun energy produced when Europe is on holyday and the industry production is downscaled. This energy is there to be used at a more appro- priate time – we just need a way to store it.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we explore the options of energy storage and use the recovery plan to invest in technologies that can fulfill this need and create a potential thriving industry.

Here green hydrogen might be part of the solution, such that we create large scale green hydrogen production directly linked to renewable energy sources throughout Europe.

This will not only optimize the energy that we produce and thereby secure low cost and a high resilient energy network, but also give the opportunity to link the power grid to the areas such as the heavy industry and transportation that is harder to electrify. That can create a complete form of harmony so investment in renewable electricity can have a positive effect on sectors that would not normally be connected to the power grid.

Let smart and digital solutions lead the way

Further, there is no need to only go the hard way. There are loads of digital and smart solutions waiting to be installed in the households and in society in general such as using heat surpluses from digital data centers and the industry in general. This can optimize our use of energy and lead to an easier and more green everyday life.

So, let’s ride on the wind of the recovery plan to build a green, digital and resilient Europe – for the sake of the future. Let’s show the rest of the world, how we can both recover the economy and fight the climate changes at the same time.