Eurelectric: Keep nuclear for emissions cuts

16 November 2009

A study from Europe's electricity industry reveals that retaining and increasing nuclear power will help cut carbon emissions faster.


After a joint study with the Athens Technical University, Eurelectric concluded that a carbon-neutral power sector was achievable by 2050. That would involve an efficiency drive, an international cap and trade system, the use of every low-carbon power technology and the offsetting of remaining emissions.


The power sector union's report contains two scenarios to 2050: one in which current policies are followed, including the phase-out of nuclear power in Germany, Belgium and Spain; and the 'Power Choices' scenario in which policymakers "enable the use of all low-carbon options for power generation."


Even under the current policy scenario, carbon emissions are cut dramatically, but Eurelectric concluded that cuts are deeper and quicker when nuclear power plants are allowed to operate. The body said that "very substantial investment" should go to new nuclear power plants alongside renewables, carbon capture & storage (CCS), smart grids and efficiency. 



Policies positive to nuclear power can accelerate cuts by up to five years,
 while delays in CCS could even see emissions rise briefly


On the supply side, a major push for renewables could see them supplying 38% of power as a group with over half of this coming from wind. Nuclear power could provide 27% of generation by 2050, including new power plants built after 2025. Carbon capture and storage equipment would be progressively incorporated into around three-quarters of the fossil fleet.


However, it was noted that a delay in building onshore wind power would mean an increase for nuclear and CCS, while delays in CCS were still possible. This effectively leaves nuclear power as the backstop in case expensive incoming technologies fail.


Chief among Eurelectric's demand-side recommendations was support for an international carbon market and the internalization of its costs into every sector. This would create the conditions for a switch to more efficient fuels. Furthermore, Eurelectric said that carbon dioxide emissions across the European economy as a whole could be significantly reduced by a shift to end-use electricity, which would be more efficient than using oil in terms of raw energy demand.


One major element of electrification is road transport, which Eurelectric has been trying to facilitate with a Task Force on Electric Vehicles. It submitted a declaration on infrastructure for recharging to EU transport commissioner Antonio Tajani on 27 October.