The power sector supports the European Commission's goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the EU economy by 2050, the association of European electricity generators, Eurelectric, said. However, it has called for six "critical enablers" to be put in place to achieve this.The Gravelines nuclear power plant in northern France (Image: EDF)
"Europe has a unique opportunity to establish its global leadership in clean technologies and sustainability in the fight against climate change in line with the Paris agreement," Eurelectric said. "In this context, the European electricity industry commits to playing a key role to enable and sustain a climate neutral European economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, reliably powered by affordable energy from renewable and carbon-neutral sources".
However, the trade body - which represents more than 3500 power companies across Europe - said an enabling framework needs to be put in place "to collectively ensure a transition to a climate-neutral EU by 2050 that would preserve European competitiveness, be just and socially balanced."
According to Eurelectric, the EU target is only achievable with "targeted and coordinated efforts, and deep electrification of transport, industry and buildings". It estimates that deep decarbonisation is possible with 60% direct electrification. "While carbon-neutral energy can remove two-thirds of current total EU emissions, it is also critical that non-energy use sectors follow suit and ramp up their decarbonisation efforts."
Eurelectric President Magnus Hall said: "Businesses are ready to move and with electrification we have a powerful tool to accelerate emission reductions in transport, heating and industry. We need policy makers to send a clear signal on the long-term direction." To achieve the transition, Eurelectric sets out six "enablers".
Firstly, it says it is crucial that policymakers recognise the importance of electrification. "A proper framework for electrification will foster benefits through investments in sectoral integration".
Secondly, policymakers must ensure predictable and stable regulatory frameworks giving the right signals to investors within a well-functioning and fully integrated power market to boost innovation and reduce costs for final customers while ensuring security of supply.
It also called for policymakers to lead EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) reforms to ensure that robust market-based carbon pricing is a key driver.
Policymakers must also take into account the distributional effects of climate policies across society and Member States, ensuring that sufficient funding is available under the next EU budget to support carbon intensive regions, Member States with a different starting point, and vulnerable consumers.
Eurelectric also called on policymakers to encourage social acceptance for the accelerated deployment of renewables, clean energy solutions and grids.
Finally, the association said policymakers must foster innovation in the needed technologies "to abate the last tonnes of CO2 emissions".
"Reaching a net-zero emissions economy by 2050 will require concerted efforts to activate all six enablers together," Eurelectric said.
The 128 nuclear power reactors (with a combined capacity of 119 GWe) operating in 14 of the 28 EU Member States account for over one-quarter of the electricity generated in the whole of the EU. Nuclear currently accounts for 53% of the EU's carbon-free electricity.
Researched and written by World Nuclear News