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  A credible reply to the climate challenge

Almost regardless of where people spent this summer, they can recount stories of extreme weather.

Kristian ruby cropped

Kristian ruby cropped

Kristian Ruby

A historic heatwave triggered wildfires in Sweden and Greece. Spain and Portugal saw heat records while Denmark suffered a drought.

The list continues. Global warming is beginning to bite and the dire consequences are becoming apparent.

For a long time, the discussion on climate action was focused on the power sector. But it is increasingly clear that a society-wide strategy is needed.

Clean electricity

And clean electricity is the foundation of any strategy to achieve a decarbonised society.

Massive overall energy savings are needed to achieve the long-term goals set by the Paris Agreement. Between 48% and 60% of the EU economy should be electrified – an ambitious target given electricity’s share of overall European energy consumption is 22% today.

But these objectives are attainable, especially if we build on the momentum created by a fast-paced digital transformation and continued cost reductions for renewable generation technologies.

Eurelectric’s study, Decarbonisation pathways, produced with the support of McKinsey, covers 100% of final EU energy consumption and examines the most efficient ways to decarbonise most end-use sectors. Transport is the sector with the most urgent need for electrification. A mere 1% of energy in transport is electric today. This needs to rise to 65% to comply with the most ambitious decarbonisation scenario.

Investment requirement

This shift will require big investments and a shift in consumer behaviour but it comes with significant co-benefits, such as cleaner air, system synergies and energy efficiency. Electric vehicles are up to three times more energy efficient than conventional cars. They also have electricity storage potential, which allows for better use of available grid and optimising integration of renewables.

Electrification rates in residential and commercial buildings are more advanced. Here, more than one third of total energy consumption comes from electric sources. However, reaching the goals already agreed by policy makers would require a 45% electrification rate. The study explores the potential for electrification in cooking and space and water heating systems. Numerous solutions already exist, but they need time to take precedence.

Decarbonisation pathways will continue to be influenced by several factors, including resource availability, geography, industrial specialisations and the commercial availability of key transition technologies. But any ambitious decarbonisation strategy will require a strong push for electrification. By betting on electrification, Europe has a unique opportunity to foster economic growth while delivering on the Paris goals.

Kristian Ruby is Eurelectric secretary general. He will speak at the Global Engineering Congress on the transition to a sustainable, smart and energy efficient society.

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