Europe’s 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target is likely to be exceeded but the 2050 target is way off, according to a new report released by the European Commission’s directorates of Energy, Climate Action, and Mobility and Transport over the Christmas period.

The Trends to 2050 report finds that under the current and agreed climate and energy policies, GHG emission reductions are projected at 24% below the 1990 level in 2020 – exceeding the 20% target – at 32% in 2030, but only 44% by 2050 – only half the 80-95% required to limit the temperature increase to 2oC by that time.

The EU Reference scenario 2013, on which the study is based – as did previous Reference scenarios – deals explicitly with the penetration of new technologies, notably in power generation and transport, and specifically with progress in renewable technologies including further technology learning. Among these are advanced transmission and distribution grids and smart metering, end-use energy efficiency, both centralized and decentralized renewable energy, and plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles, as well as supercritical coal plants, advanced gas combined cycle plants and CHP, carbon capture and storage, and nuclear energy.

The report notes that up to 2020 the main driver of developments is the achievement of the targets of the 20-20-20 Climate and Energy Package and the Energy Efficiency Directive, and this period also involves the most sweeping transitions. Energy savings induced by 2020 are projected of the order of 17%, while the renewables share in gross final energy consumption slightly overachieves the 2020 target at almost 21%.

By 2030, the induced energy savings are projected at 21%, and the renewables share is 24%, increasing to 29% in 2050 (no additional renewables targets are set beyond 2020).

The report also notes that the considerable capital intensive investments in the power generation sector, as well as investments in the transmission and distribution system, will have an upward effect on electricity prices and energy system costs in the transitional period until 2020, enhanced further by the increased fossil fuel prices. Beyond 2020, however, electricity prices should stabilize and even decrease. A general effect on total energy system costs is that they become more capital intensive over time. After having undergone all the structural adjustments to cope with the 2020 targets and policies, total energy system costs grow slower than GDP, leading to decreasing ratio of energy system costs to GDP in the period 2020-50.

View Trends to 2050 HERE.

By Jonathan Spencer Jones