European governments, the European Commission and the European Parliament have begun discussions on how the European energy system should look like in 2050. It is clear that political actions are needed this decade to prepare for such a dramatic overhaul of our energy supply structure.
The EU and the G8 have agreed to cut emissions by 80% in 2050, with the EU saying it will deepen cuts to 95% if other countries sign up to similar action. These commitments mean that the power sector will need to be 100% carbon free by 2050, since transport and agriculture will need the residual 20% emissions.
Power plants have a long lifetime and, if we are to keep to the 2050 limit, this means that no carbon emitting power plant can be constructed in the European Union after 2020.
The first question to any responsible politician – European or from any other industrialised country – talking about 80% greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2050 must be: What measures do you propose to ensure that no carbon emitting power plant is constructed after 2020?
Many stakeholders will – and are – pushing for a combination of renewable energy, nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage (CCS) to achieve zero-carbon power by 2050. They will argue that we need all technologies to decarbonise our power sector. It is not correct that we need them all to achieve a carbon free power sector in 2050. Renewable energy can do it alone with a massive contribution from onshore and offshore wind energy.
“Renewable energy can do it alone with a massive contribution from wind energy.”
In 2000, 21% of new power capacity installed in the EU was from renewable energy technologies (19% was wind energy). In 2009, the share had increased to 62% (39% wind). In the past ten years, the EU increased renewable energy’s share of new power capacity by 40%-points to 61%. There are no fundamental technical barriers to fill the remaining 39% gap and source all our new power capacity from renewables by 2020.
The wind energy sector should make a loud and clear statement in the current energy debate about 2050 that we do not need 100% zero-carbon (meaning a combination of renewables, nuclear energy and coal CCS) by 2050. We need 100% renewable energy by 2020.