- Published: 09 June 2021 09 June 2021
ETIPWind (the European Technology and Innovation Platform on Wind) and WindEurope have published a new report that shows that deep decarbonisation of the economy is possible and affordable. A future net-zero system will cost no more as a share of GDP than our energy system costs today: 10.6% of GDP.
Direct electrification, complemented with the indirect electrification of harder-to-abate sectors, is the most cost-effective and energy efficient way to cut energy sector emissions to net-zero by 2050. In 2050 electricity will meet about 75% of final energy demand. Direct electrification will account for 57% and indirect electrification through hydrogen and its derivatives for another 18%. That’s compared to today’s electrification rate of 25%.
Most sectors of the economy can electrify their power and heating needs with established and commercially available technologies. Industry could directly electrify 76% of heat and power. For higher rates of electrification, new technologies such as e-crackers will be needed. Some industries, including textiles, non-ferrous metals, ceramics, glass, food, paper and pulp, will even reach 100% electrification. Other industrial sectors such as cement, chemicals, steel, and refineries are harder to electrify. They will need a combination of direct electrification and the substitution of fossil fuel feedstocks with renewable hydrogen and its derivatives.
Direct electrification will be the preferred decarbonisation solution for individual road transport, short distance shipping and rail. It will also play a role in commercial road transport. The report estimates that electric vehicles will make up 50% of the passenger vehicle fleet in the late 2020s and 50% of the commercial vehicle fleet by 2031. Heat pumps will be the key driver in electrifying the building sector.
Today wind energy is among the cheapest forms of electricity production in Europe. And further cost reductions and improvements in turbine technology will make it even cheaper. The report expects onshore wind to have average costs of €33/MWh by 2030. That’s a cost reduction of 28% compared to today. Offshore wind costs will fall by 44% to €48/MWh and floating offshore wind costs by 65% to €64/MWh over the same period. The report expects bottom-fixed and floating offshore wind costs to converge by 2040 at between €30/MWh and €50/MWh.
The European Commission’s scenarios see wind energy becoming Europe’s biggest source of electricity after 2025 and accounting for 50% of Europe’s electricity production by 2050 (up from 16% today). And they see growing rates of electrification driving electricity production from 2,760 TWh today to 6,800 TWh by 2050.
This all implies a huge expansion in wind energy. The Commission envisages 1000 GW onshore wind by 2050 (up from 165 GW today) 300 GW offshore wind (up from 15 GW today). It sees onshore wind generating 2,300 TWh a year by 2050 and offshore wind 1,200 TWh.
The European Union must continue to invest in wind energy research to unlock the five megatrends in wind energy technology: the scaling up of offshore wind; the industrialisation of floating offshore wind; further improvements in the co-existence of wind and the natural environment and other societal interests; the repowering of existing onshore and offshore wind farms; and achieving the full circularity of wind turbines.