Tangible ways towards climate protection in the European Union (EU Long-term scenarios 2050)

This study investigates concrete and realizable ways towards a European electricity sector in line with the goal of keeping global warming below 2°C. It analyzes the development of the electricity sector in the EU 27, Norway and Switzerland up to the year 2050. The study is carried out by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI for the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.  

The study focuses on two major aspects.

First of all, it provides a detailed picture of possible developments in the electricity sector with low carbon emissions and high diffusion of renewable electricity generation. The analysis is carried out on an hourly basis for three year-round meteorological datasets in order to ensure the reliability of the system.

Secondly, the study analyzes the impacts of increased efficiency in electricity consumption on the required infrastructure, the structure of the electricity supply and the cost of the system. Therefore, two scenarios are developed. Scenario A “High efficiency” presumes a very ambitious reduction of electricity demand, based on the ADAM study (Jochem & Schade 2009). The second Scenario B “Moderate efficiency” is based on the electricity demand of the TRANS-CSP study (DLR 2006), projecting higher electricity consumption than in Scenario A. In both scenarios, a cap of 75 Mt is applied to the average annual CO2 emissions in 2050, relating to a 95% reduction compared to 1990 levels. Both scenarios do not rely on additional nuclear capacity and CCS in the electricity sector, since both options are connected with substantial political, economic and technical uncertainties. In both scenarios the given CO2 target is achieved without relying on these technologies.

The study shows in detail that an ambitious greenhouse gas reduction can be achieved solely by high diffusion levels of renewable electricity generation of more than 90%.

A cost-efficient solution for the given task requires considerable increases in the transmis-sion capacity of the electricity grid.

The demand for additional storage capacity is limited if the electricity grid is strong enough and renewable electricity generation is adequate for the given emission cap.

A balanced regional distribution of renewable generation leads to lower total system costs than a distribution which is based on minimization of RES-E generation costs.

Increased efforts to reach a high efficiency in electricity demand can be valuable, since lower demand reduces the cost of electricity supply considerably. This also includes less need for sometimes contested infrastructures such as power lines and electricity storage facilities.