Deploying all current low-carbon technologies to their maximum potential could see Europe cut carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050.
That was a conclusion of the European Climate Foundation's (ECF's) Roadmap 2050 report. A major boost in the production of low carbon electricity through a mix of nuclear, carbon-capture fossil (CCS) and renewables would be the most significant step, followed by the introduction of this power to displace fossil fuels in buildings and transport.
The roadmap is an effort to investigate the technical and economic feasibility of 80% cuts in greenhouse gases, "while maintaining or improving today's levels of electricity supply reliability, energy security, economic growth and prosperity." It aims to derive the implications for the European energy system over the next five to ten years.
A previous version of this story contained significant errors, notably the incorrect attribution of comments calling for new nuclear power in Europe to Keith Allott, Head of Climate Change at WWF-UK suggesting this was part of a 'modernization' of WWF's policy on nuclear.
Dr Allott has asked WNN to make clear that WWF does not regard nuclear power as a sustainable technology, or one which is necessary to achieve deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Dr Allott's key point at the launch event for the Roadmap 2050 was that the report confirmed that a 100% renewables future for Europe was achievable, affordable and offered levels of system stability as high as today's power networks. He made clear that, given wider concerns on the sustainability and costs of nuclear power and carbon capture and storage, WWF strongly favours the 100% renewables future.
Power demand in 2050 was assumed to be 40% higher than today at 4900 TWh per year, according to a business-as-usual growth projection combined with "aggressive energy efficiency measures." Of the three low-carbon sources, none was found to be indispensible, and none capable of meeting all power demand alone. Besides this, a major focus for the ECF was that security and stability of supply would be maintained, meaning a mix of sources, no new energy imports and no reliance on technological breakthroughs. The only exception to this was a special 100% renewable scenario that involved imports of concentrated solar power and a breakthrough in geothermal technology.
Having fixed on the target of an 80% reduction in emissions, the report traced back three pathways to achieving this, each one centred on a different share for renewables: 40%, 60% or 80% of generation. In each scenario, nuclear and CCS split the remainder evenly.
The proportions were chosen, ECF told WNN, to give policymakers a set of fixed points in a spectrum of possible policy results that included all the viable options for reducing carbon emissions. ECF noted that such averages across Europe would include a wide variety of energy mixes.
For nuclear to meet the higher level of generation, an average of 65 new reactors per decade would be required, compared to 94 per decade in the 1980s, but only three in the last ten years.
ECF said their scenarios are achievable and, "If European leaders are serious about achieving an 80% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050, then a heavy burden falls upon policymakers, in Brussels and in member states, to re-shape the energy landscape through enhanced markets and effective regulation."
One prerequisite for radical change in power generation is an average carbon price of at least €20-30 ($28-41) per tonne of CO2-equivalent over the next 40 years, while power prices would rise by 10-15%.
ECF noted that every technology would face challenges in scaling up to meet its potential, but, "Arguably the toughest challenge of all is to obtain broad, active public support for the transformation, across countries, sectors and political parties."
"Transnational cooperation is required for regulation, funding, research and development, infrastructure investments and operation. Societal enthusiasm for the changes is also needed to draw talent and energy, much as the high-tech sector did in recent decades, to innovate, plan and execute these massive changes in power supply and consumption. Resilience to overcome inevitable setbacks will be required, including initiatives to change public attitudes regarding the construction of large-scale overhead transmission infrastructure."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News