Climate and Energy Roadmaps towards 2050 in north-western Europe

17-10-2012 | Publication

Although energy markets are interlinked and energy companies operate internationally, European countries have a strong national focus in their climate and energy policies. Countries have little regard for the impact of their national policy measures on neighbouring countries and vice versa. Better coordination between countries would support the desired energy transition and reduce costs.

Different ambitions

Many European countries are developing plans for a transition towards a low-carbon economy by 2050. PBL analysed these plans, often named roadmaps, of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Remarkable are the large differences in ambition and policy approach between these countries. All have agreed in the EU to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions of at least 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. Germany, Denmark and the United Kingdom have started an ambitious policy process in support of the transition towards a low-carbon economy. The national targets for renewable energy and greenhouse gases for 2020 in these countries exceed those of the EU. France, Belgium and the Netherlands are still considering which approach to take towards a stable and efficient energy transition. The approaches in the low-carbon transition plans of the countries are noticeably national in character, with little consideration of interdependencies and mutual influences.

Collaboration and coordination

Although the national strategies for the transition towards a low-carbon economy are very different, the countries operate within a context of a developing common energy market, transnational electricity and gas infrastructures, internationally operating energy companies, and technological innovations driven by concerted actions on a global level. Expansion of wind energy in northern Germany, for example, gives rise to peak loads in the Dutch power grid, and international companies are known to invest more readily in countries where profits are high and risks are low, rather than in places where technologies would deliver the best price–performance ratio. PBL has identified at least six issues that would require better collaboration and coordination between the countries. The most important of these issues are the balancing of variable wind and solar power on the European power grid, stimulation of the deployment of renewable energies, and the role of gas in the future energy mix. Furthermore, coordination is needed with regard to the development of both carbon capture and storage and a transport system fuelled by electricity or hydrogen, as well as regulation of sustainable bio-energy.

Erratum: in table 2.2 proved gas reserves are shown in billion m³ instead of trillion m³