Zero-carbon Europe ‘need cost no more’

Achieving low- or zero-carbon power generation for Europe by 2050 should cost no more than high-carbon power sources and boost energy security, says a report published by the green lobby group the European Climate Foundation

The Roadmap to 2050 report, released this week, was prepared by a group of consultants including E3G and McKinsey. It challenges conventional wisdom that reliance on high levels of intermittent renewable electricity generation could threaten reliability of Europe’s grids.

It looked at scenarios with renewable penetration of 40%, 60%, 80% and 100%, with the remainder supplied from nuclear power and/or fossil-fuel plant abated by carbon capture and storage. In all scenarios it was possible to maintain grid reliability at 99%.

A huge European ‘supergrid’, enabling balancing of uneven outputs across widely separated regions, would be required to make this possible. Although low-carbon generation infrastructure costs substantially more to build in the short-term, the report argues that this investment is eventually recouped through low operating costs.

Investment will need to double over the next 15 years to build the infrastructure, the roadmap report says. But it also found this did not need to await major technological breakthroughs.

Energy efficiency would also need to double, boosted by adoption of binding targets by the European Commission. The study also assumes sweeping market reforms in the EU.

Launching the report, E3G chief executive Nick Mabey stressed: “Achieving a minimum 80% CO2e reduction in 2050 based on zero-carbon power generation in Europe is technically feasible and makes compelling economic sense.”