EC Energy Roadmap 2050

The European Commission published its Energy Roadmap 2050 in December 2011, which sought to investigate how the EU can meet its decarbonisation objectives, while ensuring security of energy supply and competitiveness. The EU is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by between 80% and 95% below 1990 levels by 2050. The roadmap does not focus on setting new targets but presents five so-called “decarbonisation scenarios”, each of which would result in the achievement of the previously stated emissions target. These scenarios are:
1) A High Energy Efficiency scenario
2) A Diversified Supply Technologies scenario
3) A High Renewable Energy Sources scenario
4) A Delayed CCS scenario
5) A Low Nuclear scenario
Each scenario uses a different energy mix, placing different levels of importance on energy efficiency and new technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), with a varying share of renewables. All five scenarios conclude that decarbonisation is possible and indeed that it can prove to be “less costly than current policies in the long run.”
In each of the decarbonisation scenarios, the share of renewable energy rises substantially. The roadmap proclaims that renewables will “move centre stage” and achieve “at least 55% in gross final energy consumption in 2050.” The share of renewables in total energy use could rise to as high as 75%, according to the roadmap, and up to 97% in the share of electricity consumption.
Gas in the Roadmap

The Commission’s roadmap identifies natural gas as a crucial short-term energy source. The roadmap states that “gas will be critical for the transformation of the energy system.” Should CCS technology be available from 2030, the roadmap predicts that gas could play a significant role as a “low-carbon technology.”
With evolving technologies, the report states, gas could well play an increasingly important role in the long-term well. It suggests that shale gas and other unconventional gas sources could potentially become important new sources of supply in or around Europe. The roadmap states that, today, gas provides “reasonable certainty of returns to investors, with low risks and, therefore, there are great incentives to invest in gas-fired power stations.” Gas-fired power stations, it continues, “have lower upfront investment costs, are rather quickly built and relatively flexible in use.”
However, according to the roadmap, the gas market requires “more integration, more liquidity, more diversity of supply sources and more storage capacity, for gas to maintain its competitive advantages as a fuel for electricity generation.”
The roadmap talks of the importance of applying CCS in the power sector in order to realise the decarbonisation targets. It advises that investment in the CCS technology be ensured in this decade, and that it be deployed from 2020, with ambitions for widespread CCS use by 2030. CCS, it asserts, “has to play a pivotal role in system transformation.” Delays with CCS, however, could result in the share of nuclear energy in primary energy consumption amounting to as much as 18% by 2050.
The roadmap also stresses the importance of providing support for research and demonstration at industrial scale. It suggests that the EU contribute directly to scientific projects and research and demonstration programmes. According to the roadmap, The EU should build upon the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) and the next Multiannual Financial Framework (in particular Horizon 2020), investing in partnerships with industry and Member States. Higher public and private investments in R&D and technological innovation are “crucial in speeding-up the commercialisation of all low-carbon solutions,” the Roadmap concludes.
With the Energy Roadmap 2050, the Commission has attempted to set out the trends, challenges and opportunities ahead in order to avoid uncertainty becoming a barrier to investment. Overall, the roadmap aims to set out “no regrets” options for the European energy system in order to develop a “long-term European technology-neutral framework.”
The Roadmap has been welcomed and criticised in equal measure. Those who welcome the roadmap are encouraged that the Commission has taken a proactive step and shed some light on the direction of its future energy policies. The critics, however, point to the Roadmap’s lack of clear targets and the lack of a definitive plan which will lead to the realisation of the EU’s emissions targets.

To view the Energy Roadmap 2050 click here (pdf)



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