The European Union (EU) and China are, essentially, in a competition to see who will invest the most money in clean energy (sorry, U.S. clean energy lovers, a certain section of our political ‘elite’ limit our competitiveness). Historically, the EU is in the lead, but I think we all know that China is investing tremendous amounts of money in the clean energy sector. Nonetheless, the EU is still going strong.
The EU recently released its 2050 Energy Roadmap, which looks at a number of different scenarios for how it can decarbonize (or decarbonise) its energy infrastructure to reduce its carbon emissions 85% by 2050. (Note: the European Commission set 80% as the minimum reduction target for 2050, from 1990 levels.)
While the EU is committed to reducing its carbon emissions, however, there is great diversity, country-to-country, on how that should be done. And there is a lot of energy policy freedom on the country level. Five different decarbonization scenarios are presented in the roadmap.
Renewables International reports: “The roadmap therefore reflects this lack of consensus within the EU; the focus is not just on efficiency and renewables, but also on nuclear and carbon sequestration and storage (CCS).”
Some scenarios give more love to renewable energy, some to energy efficiency, some to nuclear, and some to CCS.
The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) notes the obvious regarding some of the roadmap’s failures: the roadmap “has failed to merge renewables and efficiency in a joint scenario,” EREC notes.
It also tears into some obviously bad assumptions. EREC President Arthouros Zervos says:
“The alleged high price is an attempt to discredit renewables. It is based on completely unrealistic assumptions such as running fossil and nuclear plans very infrequently. In reality no one is going to build a nuclear plant to run at 50% capacity. Other biased assumptions include overly high capital costs for renewables, insufficient energy efficiency, no infrastructure costs for CCS, and an oil price of $70, when it is already over $100 today.”
Of course, given the diversity of scenarios, the roadmap lacks any clear… roadmap on how decarbonization will occur. This is true for electricity, but is especially true for the transportation sector. From Renewables International: “ the roadmap states that roughly 33 percent of energy consumption in the EU takes place in the transport sector, almost all of which is imported (Denmark is the only oil-exporting nation in the EU – see the Key Figures PDF), but the roadmap does not set forth an explicit proposal for future transportation.”
Via the European Commission, key findings from Energy Roadmap 2050 are:
- Decarbonisation of the energy system is technically and economically feasible. All decarbonisation scenarios allow achieving the emission reduction target and can be less costly than current policies in the long-run.
- Energy Efficiency and renewable energy are critical. Irrespective of the particular energy mix chosen, higher energy efficiency and important rising shares of renewables are necessary to meet the CO2 targets in 2050. The scenarios also show that electricity will play a greater role than now. Gas, oil, coal and nuclear also figure in all scenarios in different proportions, allowing Member States to keep flexible options in their energy mix provided a well connected internal market is achieved quickly.
- Early Investments cost less. Investment decisions for the necessary infrastructure up to 2030 must be taken now, as infrastructure built 30-40 years ago needs to be replaced. Acting immediately can avoid more costly changes in twenty years. The EU’s energy evolution requires anyway modernisation and much more flexible infrastructure such as cross border interconnections, “intelligent” electricity grids and modern low-carbon technologies to produce, transmit and store energy.
- Contain the increase of prices. The investments made now will pave the way for the best prices in the future. Electricity prices are bound to raise until 2030, but can fall thereafter thanks to lower cost of supply, saving policies and improved technologies. The costs will be outweighed by the high level of sustainable investment brought into the European economy, the related local jobs, and the decreased import dependency. All scenarios get to decarbonisation with no major differences in terms of overall costs or security of supply implications.
- Economies of scale are needed. A European approach will result in lower costs and secure supply compared to national parallel schemes. This includes a common energy market which should be completed by 2014.
The key findings don’t seem to jive with some of the criticism above (which, on one hand, is good), bringing up the old adage, “the devil is in the details.”
EU flag via shutterstock