‘Sector coupling’: The EU energy buzzword no-one can actually pin down

(EurActiv, 6 Nov 2019) For over a year, one expression – “sector coupling” – has been on everybody’s lips among EU energy policy observers in Brussels. The only problem is none of them share the same understanding of what it actually means.

For people in the power sector, sector coupling means electrifying transport, heating and just about every sector of the economy which hasn’t yet been electrified.

For the gas industry, it means the opposite: delivering low-carbon gases in sectors which cannot easily be electrified – and building connections between the two in the form of power-to-gas and storage facilities.

For people in transport, it means all of the above. And for those in the building sector, it means deploying district heat networks across cities, and bringing electric heat pumps, solar panels, batteries and smart control systems to every household.

And the list goes on, with other sectors like agriculture, water, waste and recycling joining the party.

“The buzzword sector coupling goes by many definitions,” admits Augustijn van Haasteren, an official at the European Commission’s energy department who supervises a special unit dealing with the matter. “One way of looking at it is energy system optimisation,” he said during a EURACTIV event last month.

All agree on one objective, though: sector coupling should result in lower energy consumption, reduce network investment costs, and allow greater amounts of renewables in the energy mix. All of which with one ultimate goal – cutting emissions of global warming gases down to net-zero.

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EurActiv, 6 Nov 2019: ‘Sector coupling’: The EU energy buzzword no-one can actually pin down