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EU roadmap to 2050 renewable energy

‘Roadmap 2050: a practical guide to a prosperous, low-carbon Europe’ outlining various scenarios for renewable energy in Europe, has been published by the European Climate Foundation (ECF).

The project finds that in a decarbonised power system, the future cost of electricity is comparable to the future cost of electricity in the current carbon-intensive infrastructure.

Roadmap 2050 also shows that with the necessary investments in energy efficiency and Europe’s power network infrastructure, a decarbonised power sector using available technologies, including renewable energy, can provide the same high level of reliability that consumers enjoy today, in all low/zero carbon pathways.

Roadmap 2050 looks at the economic, service reliability, infrastructure, energy security and policy implications of the European power system in 2050 in four decarbonised scenarios.

The pathways do not rely on imported electricity and are based on existing or late stage development technologies including renewable energy such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and also non-renewable low-carbon resources such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear:

  • 40% renewable energy, with the remaining 60% supplied evenly between non-renewable low-carbon technologies: CCS and nuclear;
  • 60% renewable energy, with the remaining 40% supplied evenly between non-renewable low-carbon technologies: CCS and nuclear;
  • 80% renewable energy, with the remaining 20% supplied evenly between non-renewable low-carbon technologies: CCS and nuclear.
  • The study has also assessed the technical and economic feasibility of a scenario with 100% renewable electricity, requiring no nuclear power and limiting CCS application to heavy industry, including solar power from North Africa and breakthroughs on enhanced geothermal power generation.

A big challenge

With the exception of existing hydroelectric facilities, almost all of the power generation capacity required to supply Europe in 2050 will need to be built in the next 40 years. This is a major undertaking regardless of the energy mix, and would pose a massive challenge even in a high-carbon scenario, the ECF says.

The key finding of the Roadmap 2050 project is that the challenge is basically the same in either a high-carbon, low-carbon or zero-carbon energy scenario, in terms of overall cost and scale.

What does change significantly is the required level of investment early in the cycle.

Capital expenditure on energy infrastructure will need to double in the next 15 years to deliver a zero-carbon power sector by 2050. But in that scenario, the overall energy bill for the economy will be heading downward by 2020, and the day-to-day running costs fall fast throughout the period.

Policy requirements

As well as studying the technical requirements of the grid and power infrastructure and the economics of the various scenarios, the Roadmap 2050 project has also delivered an analysis of the policy requirements for decarbonisation of the power sector and inclusion of renewable energy by 2050.

Action before 2015 is a prerequisite for decarbonisation by 2050. Immediate policy development and implementation should focus on:

  • Energy Efficiency measures, creating cost savings and reducing demand;
  • Investments in regional networks and local smart grids and coordination of power market operations among member states, maximising the value of low-carbon investments and minimising back-up supply and load-balancing requirements; and
  • Market reform to ensure an effective investment scenario.

Still worth it

The Roadmap 2050 project shows that the benefits of the low-carbon transition by far outweigh the challenges and that a commitment now to a systemic low-carbon transformation of the energy sector is ultimately the winning economic strategy for competitiveness, jobs and low-carbon prosperity in Europe.

Achieving at least 80% greenhouse gas reductions in 2050 based on zero carbon power generation including renewable energy in Europe is technically feasible and makes compelling economic sense.

The report

The report was authored by the ECF with technical and economic analysis by Imperial College London, KEMA, Oxford Economics and McKinsey & Company and policy analysis by E3G and the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN). AMO, a research and design studio within the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, contributed to the content development through the production of a graphic narrative which conceptualizes and visualizes the geographic, political, and cultural implications of the integrated, decarbonised European power sector.

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Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Policy, investment and markets