Energy-system modelling of the EU strategy towards climate-neutrality

Article - December 17, 2019

We extend and use the PRIMES energy model to explore pathways towards climate-neutrality in the EU by 2050 and 2070 and analyse implications on energy demand, supply and costs. We draw on the modelling, data and scenario framework developed by the authors to support the European Commission’s “Clean Planet for All” communication, released in November 2018. Based on model results for numerous scenarios and sensitivity runs, we analyse key issues to explore feasibility, uncertainties, costs and priorities for climate-neutrality strategy. We suggest that a sustainable climate-neutral energy system in the EU is feasible using known technologies. We emphasise that the EU’s climate and energy package for 2030 currently in legislation is not sufficient to ensure climate neutrality by 2050. We characterise as of “no-regret” options promoting energy efficiency, renewables and electrification where cost-effective. However, carbon neutrality also necessitates alternative options of “disruptive” nature. Technologies supporting the disruptive options are not yet mature in industry. High uncertainty surrounds their learning potential. Their deployment heavily depends on policies facilitating investment. The system analysis based on the model illustrates the importance of sectoral integration. We argue that hydrogen, and to a certain extent synthetic carbon-neutral hydrocarbons, are critical elements among the disruptive options.

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