The whole of Europe is today clearly committed to lead the global fight against climate change, and this has become the main long term driver for policy and legislation on energy. The EU and European countries today have a clear common objective for a fully carbon-neutral economy, by 2050 at the latest.
This objective implies a unique transformation of the European energy system, underpinned by a challenging geopolitical context. The Russian invasion of Ukraine further highlights the need for Europe to accelerate the energy transition, not only to fight climate change but also to become independent from fossil fuels as soon as possible.
The goal of this document is to present a comprehensive Vision of what would be necessary to achieve a power system for a Carbon Neutral Europe. This Vision builds on the findings of the ENTSO-E Vision 2030, on the Ten-Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP) scenarios and on the ENTSO-E Research, Development and Innovation (R&D&I) Roadmap. It also includes the shared knowledge amongst Transmission System Operators (TSOs) on trends, scenarios, challenges, technology, and innovation.
One of the key assumptions for the future is that in a fully carbon neutral economy, electricity will become the dominant energy carrier, as suggested by all European and international long-term future energy scenarios. Electricity will play a central role in the achievement of a carbon neutral energy system, because of the higher efficiency of electrical end uses versus synthetic green fuels, and because of the maturity of renewable electricity generation technologies. Electricity is the most versatile and efficient energy carrier, which can be converted into usable power for an unlimited number of applications.
From this ‘efficiency first’ principle, it follows that a carbon neutral economy will be a much more electrified economy, and this is clearly shown in all forecasts that have been published recently on the paths to ‘net-zero’:
This Vision is structured around four main ‘building blocks’, that are the key components necessary to build a power system fit for a carbon neutral Europe:
- Energy System Flexibility – facilitating the development of adequate flexibility resources to handle the increased complexity of the system and to balance what will become a weather-dependent system;
- Operation of future grids – preparing and organising the operation of a carbon-neutral energy system that will be very different from today;
- Energy infrastructure and investments – accelerating the development and financing of the future system;
- Market Design – identifying principles and possible solutions for a new market design fit for a carbon neutral economy. In addition to these building blocks, this Vision also addresses three fundamental challenges that will be crucial to reach a carbon-neutral energy system: Resilience, Sustainability, and Affordability.