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EU energy production must be carbon free by 2050

To achieve the goal of cutting emissions by over 80% by 2050, Europe's energy production needs to be almost carbon-free, according to the European Commission.

By Kari Williamson

Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger stated: "Only a new energy model will make our system secure, competitive and sustainable in the long-run. We now have a European framework for the necessary policy measures to be taken in order to secure the right investments."

The Energy Roadmap 2050 is based on illustrative scenarios, created by combining in different ways the four main de-carbonisation routes (energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear and CCS). None is likely to materialise but all scenarios clearly show a set of 'no regrets' options for the coming years, the Commission says.

The Energy Roadmap 2050 identifies a number of elements which have positive impacts in all circumstances, and thus define some key outcomes such as:

  • De-carbonisation of the energy system is technically and economically feasible. All de-carbonisation 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 renewable energy 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 20 years. The EU's energy evolution requires 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 de-carbonisation with no major differences in terms of overall costs or security of supply implications.; and
  • 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.

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