KEY POINTS

  • EU seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 55% -- compared to 1990 levels – by the year 2030
  • About two-thirds of the electricity generated in the EU came from carbon-free sources in the first half of 2020
  • Eurelectric wants EU to reduce the growth of coal-based electricity imports

Europe’s electric grid could become up to 80% fossil fuel-free by the end of the decade,  Eurelectric, the trade association for the electric industry, predicted Wednesday.

Eurelectric’s projection followed a pledge by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that the EU would seek to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 55% -- compared to 1990 levels – by 2030. The Commission previously targeted a 40% reduction.

“The new [carbon dioxide] target for 2030 announced by Ursula von der Leyen will put the EU on track to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement and make our continent the undisputed leader of global climate action,” said Kristian Ruby, secretary-general of Eurelectric.

Electricity forms an important part of the EU’s climate goals.

Eurelectric said about two-thirds of the electricity generated in the EU came from carbon-free sources in the first half of 2020.

“By the end of this decade, up to 80% of all generation could be carbon-free, provided that all barriers are removed to accelerate the build-out of renewable energy and that sufficient investments flow to modernize and reinforce the power grid infrastructure,” Eurelectric said.

Ruby emphasized, however, that the road to deep decarbonization faces some significant challenges.

“[The 80% carbon-free figure] is a very ambitious target,” he said. “Meeting it will no doubt be challenging. It is critical that all sectors are obliged to deliver and that targeted efforts are initiated to accelerate electrification in transport, heating and industry.”

Ruby added: “This year, the [electric] power sector has proven its crucial value for society by providing hospitals, government offices and millions of home-working Europeans with clean and reliable power throughout the pandemic. In order to meet the 2030 targets, or go even further, we must urgently remove the specific barriers holding back the progress on the ground.”

Eurelectric further said that the EU should take steps to reduce the growth of coal-based electricity imports from outside countries. Such imports have surged from 3 Terawatt-hours, or TWh, to 20 TWh in 2019.

"Due to lax energy and climate regulations, the average [carbon dioxide] intensity of this imported electricity is two to three times higher" than what is normally produced within Europe, Eurelectric said.

"Decarbonizing our own sector while increasingly relying on dirty electricity from third countries is not a credible strategy," Ruby added.