In 30 years, the electrification of energy increased only 4%, warns EDP Comercial’s Administrator, showing that the path towards carbon neutrality is still very long. Nonetheless, by increasing the quality of lives in cities, confinement helped to imprint a sense of urgency capable of accelerating change, foresees António Coutinho.
How do you see the restart of the energetic projects after the halt caused by the pandemic?
There is a difference between energetic projects and electrification ones. Not all energy is electricity. Actually, in Europe, electricity represents only 22% of the total energy consumption. That value it’s an important aspect when looking to assure an increase in electric consumption, so to reach decarbonization. Electric mobility in itself could allow a reduction of about 25% of CO2 emissions.
And not only CO2 emissions.
Exactly, we have a tendency on focusing only on CO2 emissions, but we should also be aware of all the harmful particles that can be eliminated with the transition from fossil mobility towards renewable energy. If something became clear during confinement, it was the increase in the quality of air in cities, which benefited people’s health quite a lot.
Did we gain a new consciousness during the pandemic?
Before the pandemic there was already the conscience that we had to accelerate the energetic transition. But, having the chance to forsee in a more tangible way what that change represents, that consciousness became clearer. Besides the global improvement that the electrification of mobility allow in the reduction of emissions, there is also the elimination of harmful particles in cities’ air that, as we know, can provoke serious respiratory desiases.
“We have a tendency on focusing only on CO2 emissions, but we should also be aware of all the harmful particles that can be eliminated with the transition from fossil mobility towards renewable energy.”
Was it an intensification of awareness?
And beyond that too. People cannot be aware of how life conditions in cities aggravated in the last years because of the cumulative effects of pollution. Today was exactly as yesterday, but it’s all very different than 10 years ago. That doesn’t help to imprint a sense of urgency. But, when from one day to the other, this opportunity arises, awareness becomes more immediate, making people want a change as soon as possible.
Although change takes its time.
That’s true. Notice only that, with the world at a standstill, the reduction on emissions didn’t go above 18%. If the goal it’s carbon neutrality by 2050, the challenge is very significant and it really has to be speed up. If today, 22% of our consumption is electric, 30 years ago was 18%. In three decades we increased 4%. To reach carbon neutrality in 2050, that number will have to accelerate in 50% or 60%.
With smart-working taking the spotlight, what will be the role of electric mobility?
I would rather talk about mobility in general, more than electric mobility specifically. Smart-working will have an impact on mobility in general. It’s foreseen that, in the next few years, the reduction of Kilometers traveled in the United States and in Europe, will be accompanied by a reduction of individual transportation vehicles. It’s interesting to see that the fall on the purchase of vehicles was quite less dramatic in electric ones. That means that mobility is transforming. We will travel less Kilometers, but most of those will be traveled in electric vehicles. If the goal is to reduce emissions and particles, that is what matters. In this aspect, it might be interesting to look at vehicles of electric mobility focused on public transportation; taxis or fleets of urban distribution. And also ferries, by the way, that now go on diesel, but twill be electric when the new fleet will arrive. This demonstrates the importance of public policies for a rapid transformation of cities.
Should the economic recovery packages include initiatives for energetic transition?
In Europe, and specially in Portugal, it makes complete sense. The first reason is the immediate need to inject very significant amounts of money in the economy in order to be able to revitalize it. This injection should be aligned with the long term goals. That is the way to achieve a bigger return in this type of investments. And not least important, is the effect on job creation. Energetic transition, decentralized by nature, it’s a job creator. Think for example about the difference between traditional gas stations with fossil fuel versus electric charging stations all over the country. In order to secure the charging of electric vehicles we should have one station per 10 vehicles. That is, something around one million stations in Portugal on a long term, that will need installation, maintenance and substitution. If the energetic transition is where we are going, it makes all sense to include this sector in the recovery programs, not only because those policies will be on the same page as the long term strategies, but also because they will be creating sustainable jobs.
“It makes all sense to include this sector in the recovery programs, not only because those policies will be on the same page as the long term strategies, but also because they will be creating sustainable jobs.”
In terms of EDP’s investment in the field of energetic transition, what would you highlight?
On one side, EDP as a world leader continues to make large investments in the field of clean and renewable energies, in all the markets where it operates. On the other side, in those markets where it has retail as a final consumer, it’s developing offers that help the process of energetic transition. Electric mobility is one of those options. We try to understand together with our clients – with and without electric vehicles – what are the needs and difficulties in each moment of the process so to correspond with products and services that help make that transition smoother. Another important area it’s the pilot-project now in pre-commercial phase, that tries to make the transformation of bottled gas to electricity for example for the heating water or for cooking. Finally, there is a new area which are the local communities based on renewable energy where EDP is looking into and will have a position.
What about consumer’s adherence?
As in all processes that require transformation, the beginning is relatively slow, but the tendency is to start accelerating. For example, there are many cities in Europe where photovoltaic panels are disseminated. Portugal is not there yet, but we believe that it will come the time when these options will be normal day-to-day decisions.