La REcyclerie conference: moving towards energy transition

Posted on 19 September 2017.

Energy transition is one of the major environmental issues for the 21st century. Among the solutions that will help accelerate this transition is the circular economy.

According to the IPCC report the link between human activity and global warming is 95 % certain. 

The Veolia Foundation organizes 5 conferences a year in partnership with La REcyclerie. Primarily aimed at young people, they give them a better understanding of the challenges presented by the circular economy and more responsible use of our resources. At the September conference, experts talked about energy transition

Why do we need energy transition?

It is an undeniable fact: for the last fifty years, the planet has been warming up. The scenarios envisaged for 2100 by IPCC experts are alarming. The most optimistic forecast is an increase in temperature of 1.2 °C, while the most pessimistic suggests global warming of 5.5 °C - with all the dramatic consequences of rising sea levels, natural disasters, and so on.
Although scientists are still not certain about exactly how climate systems work, according to the IPCC report the link between human activity and global warming is 95 % certain. One of the main reasons is the over-consumption of fossil fuels, which has led to an unprecedented rise in greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.
Hence the need for a transition to cleaner energy systems. Emeric Fortin, head of the Transport and Sustainable Development Master's Degree at the Ecole des Ponts, says, "The challenge goes far beyond what was established during COP21. By 2060, we have to have completely eliminated our carbon emissions."

Producing and consuming energy differently

There are two aspects to achieving the goal - producing differently and consuming differently.
The first step is to change our production systems by switching from carbon-based energy (oil, gas, coal) to clean energy (solar, wind, hydro, etc.).
But it is also essential to act on demand, which means reducing energy consumption - both for businesses and individuals. The principle is energy efficiency, which is a question of measuring the difference between the energy actually used and the total energy consumed (often higher due to losses), and acting accordingly to decrease consumption.
The principle of the circular economy is about achieving the most efficient use of resources. It is therefore a major lever for developing innovative energy transition solutions. A large number of circular economy systems nowadays recover waste heat – for example the French company Qarnot  transforms the heat produced by computers into heating.

Hubgrade, a solution for building energy efficiency

The building sector is among the highest energy consumers. In France, it is responsible for almost 45% of total energy consumption and 23 % of CO2 emissions. Improving building energy efficiency is therefore a priority in the energy transition.
In 2014, Veolia launched "Hubgrade", which is a smart solution for improving buildings’ energy performance. In practice, sensors throughout the building collect real-time data on energy consumption, water consumption and waste generation. The data is then analyzed by experts who can immediately react and so optimize consumption.
In just three years, this solution has been deployed in a dozen countries. In Shanghai, Veolia analyzes the energy performance of 2,500 buildings and, as a consequence, has already been able to reduce energy consumption by 15 %.
"Today, because of losses, we consume far more energy, materials and water than we really need. Energy efficiency is one of the biggest opportunities to save these resources," explains Antonio Neves, Marketing Manager in Veolia's Development, Innovation and Markets Department

A legal framework with incentives

In Europe, regulation encourages energy transition. The so-called "3 times 20" directive sets a target of reducing the EU's overall energy consumption by 20% by 2020.
France is setting an example with in particular the August 17, 2015 law on the energy transition for green growth. It has created a variety of tools and public policies to accelerate the transition process.
Among them is industrial and territorial ecology. Stakeholders in the same territory join a network in order to optimize all the resources via substitution, synergy or pooling systems. For example, in Dunkirk, Arcelor Mittal - the steel giant - sends some of its waste heat into the city's heating networks. A total of 6,000 households benefit from this local circular economy loop.
Another example is the CEE (Energy Savings Certificates) introduced in 2006, which require energy vendors to finance energy saving actions in proportion to their sales.

Changing our habits

"Ultimately, all the public policies and technological innovations in the world won’t be enough if we don’t change our energy consumption habits," concludes Emeric Fortin.
Some of them we have to put up with: for example, nobody chooses to travel 45 minutes to get to work. But employers can change their habits by allowing people to work from home, which significantly reduces CO2 emissions from transport.
But we can also help the energy transition by simple everyday gestures such as switching off lights, using public transport, etc. Once again, the energy transition, like the circular economy, is everyone's business!

More : 

> He converts the waste heat from computers into heating!
> Hubgrade, a performance monitoring center