"We take energy for granted. Fuel shortages and power cuts are rare, but timely, reminders that we rely on energy for transport, for heating our homes in winter, cooling them in summer and running our factories, farms and offices. But many energy resources are finite. In addition, energy use is often a source of pollution. Sustainable development means using less fossil fuel more intelligently and developing alternatives" (EUROPA, 2005).
The requirement for energy has resulted in a number of factors (i) the need to make energy savings through energy efficiency measures and systems (ii) the reliance on finite fossil fuels, particularly from outside Europe (the risks of energy dependency) (iii) visual, air and noise pollution caused through energy generation and transportation, (iv) the need for alternative energy sources.
The European Directive on Energy efficiency: energy performance of buildings (European Commission, 2003) identifies the need to improve energy efficiency, especially in existing buildings. It proposes a common framework for calculating energy performance of buildings, and regular inspection of buildings and energy systems. In particular this provides the necessary legislative powers for EU states to tackle energy efficiency problems in the existing building stock.
The main energy sources currently used are in diminishing supply and will eventually run out. There is a need to increase the use of alternative technologies to reduce dependence on the limited supply of fossil fuels. Renewable energy is obtained from sources that are essentially inexhaustible such as wood, waste, geothermal, wind, biomass, photovoltaic and solar, in contrast to fossil fuels of which there is only a finite supply. The European Commissions Directive on the promotion of electricity from renewable energy sources (European Commission, 2001b) in the internal electricity market states a target of 12% of gross inland energy consumption from renewables for the Community as a whole by 2010, of which electricity would represent 22.1%. The renewable energy market is constantly increasing and presently employs 200,000 people in Europe.
Pollution is a side effect of energy generation and transportation. Rising energy use is increasing carbon dioxide emissions which is a major causal factor of climate change. Visual pollution is created by the infrastructure associated with energy generation, whether from fossil fuels or renewable sources, power stations and wind turbines all have an impact on the landscape.
Sustainability within the energy sector could be achieved through energy supply from renewable resources being matched by energy consumption.