[57] Energy transition and circular economy

Green manufacturing is not only about decarbonizing industry’s energy system. It is equally about using sustainable material flows that are at least carbon-neutral.

Reducing waste and recycling materials have to play a major role. But with increasingly complex, miniaturised products using multiple, composite materials, material recovery results in new challenges. Examples of such products are personal electronic devices, batteries, solar panels etc.

Low carbon material streams are likely to become one of the major remaining challenges in an 80-95% greenhouse gas reduction scenario.

[6] The elusive definition of zero energy or zero carbon

The term ‘zero energy’ sounds contradictory. We need energy to produce materials, then construct, operate and renovate or demolish buildings. Once a building is occupied, we need energy for heating, cooling, hot water, cooking, and we use electricity for a myriad of other energy services. And there is a temporal dimension – to produce energy at the time when it is needed.

‘Zero energy’ in its current use does not mean ‘compensating all energy uses related to the building, over its entire lifecycle, at the time when energy is needed’.

The term works well as a commercial label. For regulation, it lacks precision.