The EU has set a long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050. But getting there will be a huge challenge that will require a transformation of our energy system.
The European Commission’s energy roadmap 2050, published in 2011, listed some fundamental changes that need to happen in order to bring Europe towards a low-carbon energy system.
- Decarbonisation is possible but will require massive capital expenditure. Grid investment costs alone could reach between €1.5 trillion to € 2.2 trillion by 2050.
- Electrification will play a major role in the low-carbon energy transition, almost doubling its share in final energy demand to 36-39% in 2050.
- Household energy expenditure will increase, with electricity prices expected to rise until 2030 and then decline.
- Energy savings are crucial. In all scenarios, primary energy demand drops in a range of 16-20% by 2030 and 32–41% by 2050 as compared to peaks in 2005–06.
- Carbon capture and storage needs to reach the commercial viability stage and will have to contribute up to 32% of power generation if nuclear is contained at current levels.
- Nuclear will continue to play a significant part as a source of low-carbon electricity, reaching between 15-18% of primary energy needs.
The Norwegian energy company Statoil has put together projections for 2030 and 2050, based on three scenarios for how the world will develop – one optimistic (Renewal), one pessimistic (Rivalry) and one baseline scenario (Reform).
- Renewal: A scenario fully consistent with 2°C global warming target.
- Reform: Takes existing UN climate commitments as minimum.
- Rivalry: A future dominated by geopolitical and economic conflict.
Global energy demand: Continued growth
In all three scenarios, more people are becoming part of the middle class, economic growth continues, and hence the underlying global demand for products, services, and activities that require energy increases, albeit at different paces.
Energy efficiency: Drastic improvement needed
“In order to have any chance of reducing CO2 emissions to sustainable levels, the one most important factor is that we have to become significantly more energy efficient than we are today.” – Eric Waerness, chief economist, Statoil.
Energy mix: Gradually moving towards renewables
In a scenario that is consistent with the 2°C target, oil reduces its share from 31 to 23%, while gas remains at around 20%.
“Regardless of scenario, and in addition to massive investments in renewable energy, we will continue to need large investments in oil and gas due to natural decline in supply from existing fields.” – Statoil Energy Perspectives 2017.