European Standards - Supporting Innovation in the Energy Sector

By Elena Santiago Cid, Director General of CEN and CENELEC
Summer 2015

Since the start of the 20th Century, standardization has played a vital role in supporting the development of the energy sector - from the design and construction of power stations to distribution networks for electricity and gas, as well as all kinds of appliances and machines that use energy. Now, in the 21st Century, with rapidly-changing technologies, an emphasis on efficiency and increasing reliance on renewable energy, we can say that the role of standardization is more important than ever before.

Whether one is looking at the generation and distribution of electricity, the oil and gas sector, the nuclear power industry, or renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, standardization is essential. Having suitable standards that are widely accepted and applied brings benefits in terms of performance, reliability, compatibility and interoperability. Standards contribute to protecting the environment and ensuring high levels of safety, and they also facilitate the market acceptance of new technologies and innovations.

With the European Commission's commitment to creating an 'Energy Union', it seems that energy has never been higher on the EU's policy agenda. Moreover, when we look more closely at the Commission's proposals, we can see that there are several areas in which standardization has a key role to play. These include: ensuring the most efficient use of energy, enabling the integration of the European electricity market, facilitating the acceptance of new technologies, developing Smart Grids and promoting the growth of renewables, as well as supporting the spread of electromobility and alternative fuels.

CEN and CENELEC are supporting standardization activities in all of the above mentioned areas, working in close cooperation with key players in the energy industry and also with the European Commission. Thousands of experts from across Europe are participating in the Technical Bodies of CEN and CENELEC, in order to develop standards that are adopted and published by our National Members in 33 countries. All of these standards are reviewed and revised on a regular basis, in order to incorporate the latest technological advances and take account of feedback from industry and other stakeholders.

For many years, CEN and CENELEC have been developing standards to enable the integration of the European electricity and gas markets. We cooperate closely with the European Networks of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) and Gas (ENTSO-G), in order to ensure that European Standards are fully compatible with the relevant Network Codes.

Standards support the expansion of renewable energy, which is vital for achieving Europe's objectives in terms of de-carbonizing the economy and reducing CO2 emissions. CEN develops standards in relation to thermal solar systems as well as bio-fuels and bio-mass, while CENELEC produces standards in relation to solar photovoltaic energy systems and wind turbines. Our collaboration with ISO and IEC is especially intense in these areas.

CEN and CENELEC have also been collaborating with ETSI (the European Telecommunications Standards Institute) and with a range of key players in the energy sector on the development of standards for Smart Grids. We have already produced a common reference architecture and a set of consistent standards to support the implementation of Smart Grids in Europe (following a request from the European Commission). Currently we are working with ETSI and the IEC to fill the remaining gaps as swiftly as possible, and also to develop standards for smart metering systems for both electricity and gas./p>

As well as producing standards for the energy sector, CEN and CENELEC also develop standards for a wide range of products that use energy, from computers to washing machines. In particular, we produce standards that support the implementation of the EU Directives on Ecodesign (2009/125/EC) and Energy Labelling (2010/30/EU). Such standards can make an important contribution to achieving higher levels of energy efficiency, thereby reducing demand for energy and helping businesses and households to cut their energy costs.

In addition to the areas already mentioned, there are many other energy-related activities being carried out within CEN and CENELEC. These include: the development of standards on energy audits to support the implementation of the Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/ EU); standards for calculating the Energy Performance of Buildings (EPB); standards for various kinds of gas appliances; standards to support the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure and 'smart charging' of electric vehicles; standards to help implement the revised Low Voltage Directive (2014/35/EU); and our cooperation with ISO and IEC to provide standards for Europe's nuclear energy industry.

Most European Standards are voluntary, which means that businesses and other organizations are not legally obliged to apply them. However, around one-fifth of the standards adopted by CEN and CENELEC may be used to ensure compliance with legal requirements contained in European directives and regulations. These 'harmonized standards' enable manufacturers and operators to comply with the essential requirements laid down in the relevant EU Directives.

In an increasingly globalized economy, there is a clear added value in having standards that are accepted and applied worldwide. In CEN and CENELEC, we collaborate closely with our international counterparts (ISO and IEC), and some 43% of all our deliverables are identical to international standards (in the electrotechnical sector it is more than 70%!). The alignment of European and international standards helps to eradicate technical barriers to trade (TBT) and facilitates European companies' access to global markets.

Looking ahead to the coming years, we can see that there are many areas where standardization is necessary to support innovation in the energy sector. These include new battery technologies, the further expansion of renewable energy and electromobility, and the concept of 'smart and sustainable cities'. In CEN and CENELEC, we will continue to work with our National Members, European stakeholders and international partners in order to help bring about a cleaner, greener and more efficient energy future for Europe.