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Working paper / Energy

Decarbonizing the European Electric Power Sector by 2050: A Tale of Three Studies

Author(s): DELARUE Erik, MEEUS Leonardo, BELMANS Ronnie, D'HAESELEER William, GLACHANT Jean-Michel

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ABSTRACT

If Europe is serious about climate change, it has to reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, thereby effectively going to a (near-) zero carbon energy and thus, electricity system. The European Climate Foundation, Eurelectric, and the International Energy Agency have consequently published a study elaborating on the final goal of this transition. The studies project scenarios of how such a (near-) zero electricity system would look like and provide recommendations on the policies needed to guide the transition. In this paper, we observe that these studies tell a tale with many similarities. In spite of increased energy efficiency, the electricity demand is projected to increase substantially, with up to 50% from today towards 2050, due to shifts from other sectors towards electricity. This demand will be supplied by a minimum of 40% electricity generation by RES, with the remainder being filled up with nuclear and fossils with CCS. The importance of grid reinforcement, expansion, and planning in this context is emphasized in all three studies. While all three studies further recommend relying on the EU ETS for the transition, the European Climate Foundation and the International Energy Agency consider continuing with targets for RES in combination with a more harmonized EU RES support scheme.