Decarbonisation Scenarios leading to the EU Energy Roadmap 2050

Information for Policy Makers, SEFEP staff: Antonella Battaglini, January 2012

Energy scenarios are seen as a helpful tool to guide and inform these discussions. Several scenario studies on the European energy system have been released in recent years by stakeholders like environmental NGOs and industry associations. A number of these studies have recently been analysed by the Öko Institut and the Wuppertal Institute within an ongoing project, the "metastudy", commissioned by the Smart Energy for Europe Platform (more information here). The project aims to advance the debate on the decarbonisation of the energy system in the European Union as well as the EU Member States during the course of 2012 and to make contributions to the scientific literature on this topic. Analysis within the project focuses on the development of the electricity system, as this system today is the main source for CO2 emissions and is widely regarded to be the key system to any future decarbonisation pathway.

The paper at hand presents the results of an in‐depth analysis and a comparison of six mitigation scenarios from three important scenario studies released since 2009 by Greenpeace, EURELECTRIC and the European Climate Foundation (ECF) respectively. A decomposition method is applied to show the extent to which technologies and strategies contribute to CO2 emission reductions in the individual scenarios.
The authors conclude that there are a few technologies and strategies in the electricity sector, which are key in any mitigation pathway. This consensus especially concerns the need for stronger improvements in energy efficiency to reduce future increases in electricity demand and the rapid deployment of renewable energy technologies, especially onshore and offshore wind. Disagreements in the scenarios analysed mostly deal with the two mitigation options Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and nuclear energy. The level of public acceptance towards these technologies, their future costs (especially compared to renewable energy technologies) and in the case of CCS also the technological feasibility is assessed differently in the scenario studies considered here. Despite the differences in the scenarios, the analysis makes clear that political action is needed today to ensure that there will be no delays in the transition towards a sustainable energy system. One reason for this is because major infrastructural changes are required in regard to the electricity grid and any such measures (especially building storage facilities and new transmission lines) are characterised by considerable lead times. The same holds true for the more controversial and uncertain mitigation option of CCS, which would require a significant pipeline infrastructure and ready‐to‐use CO2 storage sites. As long as uncertainty about such key infrastructural changes remains, investments will likely not be sufficient to realise any ambitious mitigation pathway.
The working paper can be downloaded here.

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