Even as Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol this month–during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa–the European Union set an aggressive energy roadmap to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80%-95% below 1990 levels by 2050.
The transformation will make Europe less dependent on external energy supplies.
The roadmap describes seven possible scenarios, based on different energy portfolios, with the goal of allowing EU member countries to choose the option that suits them best.
“Each country is responsible for its own energy choices,” the EU commission wrote in a statement. “But they must be integrated in the overall context and take into account the potential consequences on its neighbors.”
The seven scenarios include: Two “current trend scenarios” that use current policy initiatives as a guide; a high energy efficiency scenario that calculates a 41% decrease in energy demand by 2050 compared to 2005-2006 peaks; an open market scenario in which all energy sources compete equally without any specific support measures; a renewable energy-heavy scenario that includes a renewable energy sources (RES) share of 75% and a 97% renewable electricity consumption rate; a scenario of increased nuclear power combined with delayed Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) technology on thermal plants; and finally a low nuclear power option–with nuclear falling from its current 14% to about 3% in 2050–with higher shares of CCS–about 32%–on thermal plants.
Though Germany has already chosen to shut down its nuclear power, the report is clear that “it does not give a recommendation or a forecast on the future development of nuclear energy in Europe.”
But under any scenario, renewable power will “move center stage” to at least 55% of energy consumption by 2050, up dramatically from EU’s current 10% share for renewable power generation.
The roadmap also stresses that for any climate change and emissions reduction plan to work, Europeans will have to limit and reduce energy use in the coming decades. The plan is also to use produced power more efficiently, through programs like demand response, energy storage and smart grid installations.
The EU is looking for a “no regrets” infrastructure option where investment can open opportunities for new technology, the commission wrote. The costs is justified because “we will face higher electricity prices due to increases in fossil fuel prices (gas, coal and oil).,” the roadmap reads. “This is because world wide demand is increasing, especially in Asian countries such as China.”
The goal is nothing less than “the energy system transformation [that] will drive growth and employment in a wide range of sector, from construction, renewable energy, power generation and transmission, energy efficient appliances and vehicles, and has the side benefit of a reduced external fuel bill.”
“It is up to Europe to ensure a strong industrial base ready to take advantage of these opportunities,” the commission wrote.