Posted June 6, 2016 by Mike Kirst
Ahead of the meeting of EU Energy Ministers, Westinghouse Electric Company outlined a plan that would allow the European Union to meet its transition to a low-carbon energy future by mid-century. Six months after the historic Paris Agreement, words need to translate into actions.
When the world agreed a global climate deal at COP-21 in the French capital, it sent a message of hope. With it came a realisation that Paris was only the beginning and that real measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were needed quickly. Six months on, the sense of urgency that loomed over the UN negotiations has faded. The mood of hope has increasingly been replaced by one of frustration due to a lack of decisive action by decision-makers in the wake of the agreement.
Commenting on the current situation, Mark Marano, Westinghouse president Americas and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Regions, said that the road from Paris to a low-carbon, climate friendly future is long - and that the clock is ticking: “We must start work now in three crucial areas: We need to bring together all low-carbon technologies, we need to improve access to finance for them, and we need clear rules. As one of the world’s leaders in the fight against climate change, the European Union is better placed than any other region to deliver progress. The question is, will it use the redesign of its electricity market to make its low-carbon generation the engine of its energy transition?”
Today’s decision-makers will determine the EU’s energy future for the 21st century. By 2030 the energy system will have to look completely different from now. In 2030, half of our electricity will have to come from low-carbon energy sources; by 2050 it will have to be completely carbon-free. The timeline is the equivalent of one generation of nuclear power plants and two generations of wind turbines.
A combination of nuclear and renewable generation must form the backbone of an affordable, feasible and robust low-carbon electricity system. It is virtually inconceivable that the 2 degree Celsius or 450 parts per million target can be achieved without a substantially greater reliance on nuclear power1
. While a continued reliance on fossil-based electricity generation is unsustainable, the proposed shift to an electricity system based on renewables only would have serious unintended consequences such as massive additional and sub-optimal investment in building sufficient intermittent generation and fossil-based back-up capacity that will continue to emit CO2. Together with investments in maintaining the electricity grid, this would result in higher electricity prices.
An electricity market based on nuclear and renewables avoids CO2 emissions, additional long-term costs and energy dependency - while improving European competitiveness in the 21st Century.
This low-carbon future will guarantee that the EU has a climate-friendly electricity system, ensure the lowest cost for consumers and avoid unnecessary investment in fossil-based back-up capacity.
It is a little known fact that nuclear generation accounts for 27 percent of all electricity in the EU. Together with renewables, nuclear has helped Europe to generate 54 percent of its electricity without greenhouse gas emissions2
. With a proper investment framework, under-pinned by EU and national legislation, the share of climate-friendly energy will continue to grow and replace the entire outdated carbon-based system of the past century.
A low-carbon, low price energy system will be a boost for both residential and industrial consumers. European decision-makers can learn from the U.S., where utilities collect a small fee from customers dedicated for the construction of new low-carbon generation capacity, which helps to reduce debt requirements and the cost of electricity for consumers.
In short, the new market needs to be open to innovative ways of financing capital-intensive low-carbon nuclear and renewable energy projects. As such, it could become an important driver for investment in Europe, one of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s top priorities.
With its long-awaited post-COP-21 proposals due in December, the Commission has the chance to rekindle the fight against climate change. The coming months will show if the road to a low-carbon future leads from Paris to Brussels.
1Robert N. Stavins quoted in Nuclear Power needs to double to curb global warming by Bobby Magill, Scientific American 30 January 2015 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nuclear-power-needs-to-double-to-curb-global-warming/
2European Commission, State of the Energy Union 2015 (18.11.2015 COM(2015)572, p.2
Vice President, Strategy and External Relations
Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Region
Westinghouse Electric Company
Categories: Energy Policy
Tags: climate change