Proudly KyklOIKOdromio participated in a panel discussion, in the parallel organization of the 9th Environment for Europe Ministerial Meeting, entitled "Circular Economy and the Market: Skills, Sustainability and Policy", organized by Center for Social Innovation – CSI, with Dr Chryso Sotiriou, Member of the Management Board of KyklOIKOdromio.
More specifically the intervention of Dr Chryso Sotiriou, Member of the MB KyklOIKOdromio, was the following:
One of the hottest topics in economy, environment and market is energy. Probably is the sector with the most direct impact in all the above, positive or negative. How circular economy policies and practices will maximize the positive impact of energy management and consumption? How circular economy, if possible, will transform energy, from a political tool and a polluting factor, to a driver of progress and development?
The positive correlation between circular economy practices and energy management and energy savings in consumption it is provided by the definition of circular economy. Circular thinking decouples economic activity from the consumption of materials and energy. It creates closed-loop cycles in which waste is minimised or even eliminated, and in which resources are reused. It does so by prioritising renewable inputs. So, shifting to renewable energy as an input is a first step and a key element in circularity. Mining and other extractive resource activities, involved with fossil fuels, can never be completely closed loop. Circular economy approaches require replacing the use of finite inputs.
And of course, circular thinking requires using resources efficiently. The closer the loop, starting from sharing, reusing, repairing, remanufacturing, repurposing and at the end recycling, the less energy intensive is the procedure.
And of course, we need to remember that circularity requires system approach. It is not enough for us to be circular. It requires circular suppliers as well, applied all the necessary approaches.
It is true that the energy sector didn’t find its way to be sustainable up to now, for a variety of reason. And of course, embedding circularity principles can transform the energy sector into a driver of progress and development. Apart from the obvious benefits - cost reductions, optimisation of resources - circularity is taking companies further - into territory where they are rethinking and transforming their business models, putting them into new value-chain positions that can make them more resilient and competitive. Circularity provides an opportunity for building greater resilience by localising and shortening supply chains. The implementation of CE policies will contribute to making economies less dependent and unprotected and more competitive.
We talk on energy management, circular economy, environmental policies, all sound too theoretical. From your work and research, what are the tangible tools, practices and methods that will initiate a transition of sectors like the energy, toward a more aligned approach to circular economy principles?
Future scenario of net zero emissions: The energy transition depends on a shift to renewable power, looking away from natural gas and petroleum, and towards solar, wind, hydrogen, geothermal power, or other zero emissions tech. Becoming net zero is likely to include more circularity, but is not necessary to be complete circularity.
Designing circular systems
Creating a truly sustainable energy transition means factoring the circular economy in at the design stage. We need to install massive amounts of renewable energy over the coming decades. However, by the early 2030s, the first generation of solar will come offline, and by 2050 it’s predicted that we could be decommissioning 78 million tonnes of panels per year. In the same year, wind turbine blades could account for 43 million tonnes of waste. Secondary market.
These products through circular economy can be designed for longer lifetime, can be modular, can more easily be repaired and put on a secondary market, can be more easily disassemble, and recycled. With the right planning and attention, the panels coming offline in 2030 can become the new panels installed in 2031.
Another critical part of circular design is life extension. We should make durable products designed to be repurposed for other uses. Used batteries which can no longer hold sufficient charge for the initial application, can be effectively used in other applications that require lower performance.
Create secondary market of PV panels.
Create and operate the systems to deal with the waste.
Using low-carbon, circular materials
All the required energy transition equipment will need to be made from zero emissions materials, as well as not produce emissions when they are used.
The circular economy can be a source of low carbon materials. For example, recycled aluminium emits up to 95% less carbon dioxide than that from virgin sources. Building energy transition infrastructure from secondary materials will align the sector with the circular economy principles.
Recycling can conserve critical materials
But transitioning to these technologies is triggering demand for the critical minerals required, such as lithium, cobalt, and rare earths.
Obtaining these materials exclusively via mining presents sustainability challenges. The circular economy can reduce the dependence on mining and ensure longer-term use of these materials. Currently metals in electronics that are key to the transition (tantalum, lithium, cobalt, and manganese) face poor rates of recycling.