The Challenge

The electricity power generating system is Europe’s single biggest CO2-emitting sector. If decarbonised, it has the potential to be the engine of a low-carbon economy. Without tackling power, Europe will not reach its climate goals. That’s why decarbonisation of the EU power system is a critical part of the ECF’s mission.

The ECF’s landmark Roadmap 2050 report shows that to reach 80% emissions reductions in 2050 across the European economy as a whole, the power sector will need to be almost completely decarbonised (95-100%). This requirement is based on the technical abatement potential within each sector (power, road transport, air and sea transport, industry, buildings, waste, agriculture, and forestry) compared with baseline emission levels in 1990.

The Roadmap 2050 analysis also shows that achieving an 80% reduction in total EU emissions by 2050 will require partial decarbonisation of the transport sector and the built environment (homes, businesses, public buildings). This will be achieved most efficiently through a shift in fuels from oil and gas to decarbonised electricity. In turn, the need for systematic fuel shifting dictates the need to decarbonise the power sector before 2050, probably between 2030 and 2040; if this does not occur, increased electricity consumption from transport and buildings would lead to higher CO2 emissions.

Thus, the ECF Power Programme aims to decarbonise European electricity generation by 2050, by replacing unabated coal-fired power with renewables and flexible low-carbon back-up supplies. This requires policies that will encourage significant investments in new generation capacity and grids over the next two decades.

In the nearer term, a key challenge involves shaping the content of the 2030 climate and energy policy package at the European level and the consequent effect on renewables investment, and ensuring that the signals to Member States regarding EU policy are clear and consistent. Policy at the national level must align with EU policy as needed to drive systematic transformation.

The Opportunity

Our specific goal is to take 1.2Gt of carbon dioxide equivalent out of European emissions by 2050 by decarbonising the EU power sector. This would in turn enable further potential CO2 abatement through the electrification of the EU transport system and heating systems in the built environment.

Success requires helping Member States to understand the kinds of policies that lead to stable prices, building a market framework for a sustainable EU renewables industry, and – ultimately – building an electricity system that is reliable and predominantly powered by renewables.

Our Strategy

To that end, the ECF power team brings together the key actors involved in driving power sector decarbonisation, works with them to analyse the challenges and what it would take to overcome them (commissioning research where necessary), and develops recommendations on the basis of those findings.

The key actors in our strategies are electric utilities, transmissions systems operators, equipment suppliers, investors, environmental NGOs, trade unions, and consumer groups. We have found that building platforms to enable stakeholder dialogue is an effective way of building confidence in ambitious policy solutions.

We work in partnership with industry, governments, and trade associations, alongside NGOs, think tanks, journalists, consultants, and other foundations.

Focus Areas

In terms of geographic focus, most of our work takes place at the EU level in Brussels and in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Poland.

These are our most important platforms:

Roadmaps to Reality
Following on from our ground-breaking “Roadmap 2050” project, we commissioned research on the challenges in the 2030 context entitled “Power Perspectives 2030”. Now the challenge is how to make EU Roadmap into a policy and investment reality – the focus of our Roadmaps to Reality project. We are working with academics, NGOs, and others to resolve key policy challenges on the path to 2050.

Agora Energiewende
In Germany, our joint project with the Mercator Foundation to set up the Agora Energiewende – a neutral forum for planning the country’s transition to a high share of renewable energy resources – has made huge strides since its kick-off in April 2012.

Niskoemisyjna Polska 2050
In Poland, we are undertaking a cross-sectoral analysis of the CO2 impacts of different modernization pathways. While the shift from total reliance on coal to low-carbon options will take time, we are starting to see positive signs of our impact after four years of work on the ground.

For more information, please contact power@europeanclimate.org.