Low-carbon energy scenarios in north-west European countries

For the purpose of the Energy Union, European Member States are obliged to compose a long-term strategy for energy and climate policy that covers the period from 2021 to 2030 and includes a perspective up to 2050. However, in the absence of clear governance of the processes, it seemed useful to discuss the differences in progress, approaches and uses of national energy and climate perspectives in policy. With this in mind, a round-table meeting was organised by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, inviting modelling and policy representatives from France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and the European Commission to take part in the discussion.

Different methods yet similarities in low-carbon perspectives

The PBL round-table discussions, generally, revealed large differences among a relatively homogenous group of countries, with respect to the various approaches and low-carbon energy scenarios in policy. Overall, these differences concerned: 

  • Scenario designs;
  • The modelling landscape of assessing national low-carbon scenarios;
  • Long-term ambitions being considered ;
  • Governance approach.

However, the presented trajectories all underlined a similar narrative for achieving the EU 2050 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% to 95%, compared to 1990 levels. Decarbonising power supply and improving energy efficiency were considered key strategies by all countries, although uncertainties in transborder developments, public engagement and lack of long-term visions may prevent them from aligning with the long-term low-carbon ambitions.

Moving forward in ambition and collaboration

Participants, overall, agreed that ambitions in the national low-carbon energy scenarios would need to be increased by aiming for the upper range of the 80% to 95% EU greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2050. This would help to flesh out the challenges in the medium term and steer the debate towards more critical factors in the energy transition. Participants also encouraged Member States to take initiative and collaborate to create an environment in which ambitions and knowledge can move forward.


Mariësse van Sluisveld, Pieter Boot, Pieter Hammingh, Jos Notenboom, Detlef van Vuuren


Publication title
Low-carbon energy scenarios in north-west European countries
Publication date
29 July 2016
Publication type
Product number