Europe reveals clean energy roadmap

16 December 2011

The European Commission (EC) has released an energy roadmap presenting various scenarios for meeting its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Nuclear energy, it says, will remain an important part of Europe's power generation mix.


The commission suggests that in order to achieve its goal almost all of Europe's energy production will need to be carbon-free. It says that its newly-published Energy Roadmap 2050 sets out a range of scenarios under which this can be achieved without disrupting energy supplies and competitiveness. "People's well-being, industrial competitiveness and the overall functioning of society are dependent on safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy," it noted.


The EC said that its analysis is based on seven illustrative scenarios, created by combining in different ways the four main decarbonisation routes for the energy sector - energy efficiency, renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage (CCS). However, it notes that although none of the scenarios is likely to materialize, "all scenarios clearly show a set of 'no regrets' options for the coming years."


There are several common elements in all decarbonisation scenarios, the commission said. These include that the demand for renewable energy will grow; energy savings will be crucial; the role of electricity will increase; capital investments will increase; and, fossil fuel use will decrease.


The roadmap notes, "All scenarios show electricity will have to play a much greater role than now (almost doubling its share in final energy demand to 36-39% in 2050) and will have to contribute to the decarbonisation of transport and heating/cooling."


While the share of renewable energy rises substantially in all seven scenarios - achieving at least 55% in gross final energy consumption in 2050, up from the current level of some 10% - nuclear power will be needed to provide a significant contribution in the energy transformation process in those member states where it is pursued. The EC said that while it remains neutral on the question whether or not member states should use nuclear power, it "remains a key source of low carbon electricity generation." Under the scenarios, the highest penetration of nuclear is seen as 18% of primary energy consumption, slightly up from the current 14%. In the lowest case, where reactors currently under construction are used in 2050, while existing ones and decommissioned and not replaced, nuclear would only contribute 3% of primary energy.


According to the roadmap, "Nuclear energy is a decarbonisation option providing today most of the low-carbon electricity consumed in the EU." The scenario analysis shows that nuclear energy contributes to lower system costs and electricity prices. "As a large scale low-carbon option, nuclear energy will remain in the EU power generation mix," the roadmap says. However, it notes that "some member states consider the risks related to nuclear energy as unacceptable," but "others continue to see nuclear energy as a secure, reliable and affordable source of low-carbon electricity generation." Safety costs and the costs for decommissioning existing reactors and disposing of waste are likely to increase, the EC says. However, it notes that "new nuclear technologies could help to address waste and safety concerns."


The commission says, "The document describes the consequences of a carbon-free energy system and the policy framework needed. This should allow member states to make the required energy choices and create a stable business climate for private investment, especially until 2030." It added, "Gas, oil, coal and nuclear figure in all scenarios in different proportions, allowing member states to keep flexible options in their energy mix provided a well connected internal market is achieved quickly."


The EC says that economies of scale are needed. It suggests that "a European approach will result in lower costs and secure supply compared to national parallel schemes. This includes a common energy market which should be completed by 2014." Member states, it says, are already planning national energy policies for the future, "but it is necessary to join forces in coordinating their efforts within a broader framework."


The commission said that the energy roadmap will be followed by "further policy initiatives on specific energy policy areas in the coming years, starting with proposals on the internal market, renewable energy and nuclear safety next year."


According to Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, "Only a new energy model will make our system secure, competitive and sustainable in the long-run." He added, "We now have a European framework for the necessary policy measures to be taken in order to secure the right investments."


Jean-Pol Poncelet, director general of Foratom, the European nuclear trade body, welcomed the publication of the energy roadmap. He said, "The nuclear industry strongly supports on-going efforts to secure Europe's low-carbon energy future. It is convinced that considerable long-term investment in both renewables and nuclear energy is essential, thereby maintaining Europe's nuclear technology leadership." Poncelet added, "We very much hope that the EC will help create the market conditions that will favour such investment."


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News