(738b) European Energy Transition: Pathway to Net – Zero By 2050 | AIChE

(738b) European Energy Transition: Pathway to Net – Zero By 2050


Mac Dowell, N., Imperial College London
Ganzer, C., Imperial College London
With the European Green deal initiatives, Europe advances towards becoming the first carbon neutral continent by 2050. Using policy initiatives set by the European Commission, each member state is committed towards this 2050 goal. Along this commitment, the European Green deal also emphasises on the importance of interconnecting energy systems between member states. This is to ensure reaching the 2050 goal with a better energy infrastructure in the continent. To establish a net-zero carbon infrastructure in the European continent, many studies suggested relying on intermittent renewables. However, this raises the concern related to grid stability as energy production from intermittent renewables is not a stable process1. Hence, this brings the question of to what extent the EU can integrate these intermittent renewables and what better alternative technologies can be deployed instead. In terms of better alternatives, many studies have proved the effectiveness of deploying carbon capture and storage (CCS) and negative emissions technologies (NETs) for securing a stable grid2, especially when an energy mix contains intermittent renewables. With this, a key question rises about how the energy system mix should evolve in the EU and what pathway is most economic, and how the pathway for each individual member state will vary. Thus, the objective of this work is to study the evolution of the electricity system in the EU to identify the economic pathways towards carbon-neutrality. To perform this case study, we chose the electricity sector as a representative and collected the necessary data. Such data consisted of installed capacity, demand profile, electricity prices, intermittent renewables availability, grid features, interconnections...etc. for each member state. These parameters were used as an input to the Electricity Systems Optimisation (ESO)3 tool that optimises the system in terms of system cost. In this tool NETs and CCS are considered as technologies, and each member state is treated as a node connected to the other. The unique feature of this modelling tool to other EU electricity systems literature, is the consideration of grid features and grid expansion in terms of interconnections for each member state. The novelty of this work is shown through considering various factors in the model. First of which is the new carbon target; net-zero, where most studies in the literature considered the old carbon target (85% - 95% reduction) with a reference point of 2015. In addition to this, country level policies such as early decarbonisation and nuclear retirement were not included in most of the modelling work. Hence, this work addresses these common literature gaps by considering the most recent available data, country level policies and third countries that EU member states are connected to.

To conduct our assessment, we first assessed the current status of the EU in terms of previous carbon targets. This is to gain an image of how each member state’s energy mix has evolved and whether previous carbon targets were met or not. From this, it was strongly observed that each member state is moving in a different direction as some were becoming more fossil fuel intense. This in return showed us how EU member states were not working collaboratively to meet their targets and hence, we next studied whether this was to their advantage or not. To quantify this in the ESO tool, we used grid constrains and emissions target to build our scenarios. In our first scenario, we implemented member states’ grids connection in a way that they form one EU grid and each member state can contribute to the other’s grid requirements. With this scenario, we also dedicated the net-zero target to the continent itself, (e.g. some countries can deploy NETs to offset emissions from other member states). In the second scenario, we separated the grids of each member state and connected them via interconnection lines. This is to ensure that expansion of the grid occurs within the member state itself and grid requirements are met solely by the member state. In terms of emissions, the member states in the second scenario were to target net-zero emissions separately. To asses which grid configuration is better, the results from these scenarios were compared based on total system cost and carbon intensity. The conclusion drawn from this analysis is the importance of EU member states to move forward by working together to reach the 2050 net-zero target. This is due to the benefits gained from sharing resources, as it was observed within the model how these resources vary based on geographical location.


  1. Heuberger CF, Mac Dowell N. (2018) ‘’Real-world challenges with a rapid transition to 100% renewable power systems,’’ Joule, March, pp. 367 – 370.
  2. Fajardy M, Mac Dowell N. (2017) ‘’Can BECCS deliver sustainable and resource efficient negative emissions?,’’ Energy & Environmental Science, 1389 – 1426.
  3. Heuberger CF, Bains PK, Mac Dowell N. (2020) ‘’The EV-olution of the power system: A spatio-temporal optimisation model to investigate the impact of electric vehicle deployment,’’ Applied Energy, January, pp. 113715.