Decarbonisation and electrification: Two sides of the same coin


Electrification and decarbonisation are two sides of the same coin and the urgency is on, writes Eurelectric’s Gael Glorieux.

Electrification of society will bring about huge benefits. A massive shift in clean electricity use will foster the creation of two million jobs according to the International Labour Organisation, save lives thanks to reduced air pollution, and reduce Europe’s gas and oil import bill.

The 2020s must therefore pace up the move to an increasingly decarbonised, decentralised and digitalised power system. This will be done courtesy of all clean and renewables technologies. In 2020, renewables represented 40% of the electricity generation mix, nuclear 26%, and fossil fuels 34%. By 2030, we expect renewables to reach 60% and fossil fuels to drop to 19%.

This means adding some 470GW of centralised renewables and 40GW of self-consumption, which would be deploying no less than half of today’s existing renewables capacity over the next 10 years. In other words, we need to double the size of wind capacity and triple that of solar.

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Getting there requires political will. Policymakers must imperatively look at simplifying and speeding up permitting procedures from a snail-paced deployment of renewables to a fast-tracked one. This is a matter of urgency. They must also develop a holistic pro electrification strategy, capable of unlocking all its benefits. Such a strategy would unchain the necessary investment in electricity generation, storage (€100 billion/ year until 2030), and distribution (€400 billion/ year by 2030). It would also bring about the needed volumes of EVs and charging points, boost electric heating and smart meters, and foster the use of green hydrogen produced via electrolysis.

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It is clearly the case that Europe is on track to see a meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade, and the role of decarbonisation through electrification in this transformation will be central. However, we cannot underestimate the challenge before us, notably regarding investment and permitting, which must both be accelerated if we are to hit our 2030 targets.

Eurelectric’s Power Summit (25-28 May 2021)
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About the author

Gael Glorieux is Head of Strategic Communications at Eurelectric.