Urban pollution in European cities

Published on Monday, 14 July 2014

Air pollution in countries within the European Union is still too high, according to a study by the European Environmental Agency. Member States were first examined, then divided into categories of virtuous nations, those on the right road and others that are still lagging behind as regards emissions of four polluting substances: sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia (NH3) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC).

Transport and home consumption are the main sources of air pollution in EU countries, where cities are mostly affected. The worst performers are 11 Union Members led by Germany, France and Ireland, while the study acknowledges that other countries like the UK and Italy have made steps forward and have pollution conditions beneath the admitted levels. The greatest concerns are caused by the levels of nitrogen oxide, which in as many as nine States exceed the amount permitted by Europe, and are mainly due to transport by road and residential heating.

Residential energy efficiency is decisive to reduce polluting emissions while also cutting consumption and bills. A number of innovations such as condensing boilers, heat pump water heating systems, small scale solar PVand solar thermal plants allow consumers to achieve a double objective: cut their bills and reduce the environmental impact. Several such technological solutions are already offered on European markets, and  in countries like Italy and Spain Enel offers its customers turnkey plants for their homes.

Sustainable mobility is the other major driver for emissions reduction especially in urban centres. Electric cars are growing at a 100 percent annual rate:  from more than 80,000 units in 2011 to 400,000 in 2013. These numbers are still very low compared to those of traditional cars, but they are testimony to the joint commitment of automotive manufacturers, energy companies and institutions. Here again Enel plays a leading role by developing smart infrastructure and fast charging systems, by signing cooperation agreements with auto motive firms and local governments and by participating in European projects aimed at studying and implementing technologies for sustainable mobility.