Going green could save Europe €1 trillion in fossil fuel costs

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Joe Myers, Writer, Formative Content

  • Modelling by think-tank Ember suggests the potential for decarbonizing Europe’s power system.
  • It could be 95% by the middle of the next decade – at no extra cost – researchers found.
  • The fossil fuel savings could total €1 trillion by 2035.

By upgrading its power system and quadrupling growth in wind and solar capacity, Europe could save an estimated €1 trillion by 2035.

That’s the finding of a new report from energy think-tank Ember. And, even better? Researchers believe a 95% clean power system in Europe can be achieved by 2035 – all without threatening supply or adding additional cost to existing plans for a smaller and more polluting electricity supply.

“Scaling clean power is a win-win-win,” explains Chris Rosslowe, Ember’s senior energy analyst. “It will save money, put Europe on track for its climate commitments and reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels. Europe should invest now for a huge payback by 2035.”


What’s the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

Moving to clean energy is key to combating climate change, yet in the past five years, the energy transition has stagnated.

Energy consumption and production contribute to two-thirds of global emissions, and 81% of the global energy system is still based on fossil fuels, the same percentage as 30 years ago. Plus, improvements in the energy intensity of the global economy (the amount of energy used per unit of economic activity) are slowing. In 2018 energy intensity improved by 1.2%, the slowest rate since 2010.

Effective policies, private-sector action and public-private cooperation are needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure global energy system.

Benchmarking progress is essential to a successful transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index, which ranks 115 economies on how well they balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability, shows that the biggest challenge facing energy transition is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters, including US, China, India and Russia. The 10 countries that score the highest in terms of readiness account for only 2.6% of global annual emissions.

To future-proof the global energy system, the Forum’s Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials Platform is working on initiatives including, Systemic Efficiency, Innovation and Clean Energy and the Global Battery Alliance to encourage and enable innovative energy investments, technologies and solutions.

Additionally, the Mission Possible Platform (MPP) is working to assemble public and private partners to further the industry transition to set heavy industry and mobility sectors on the pathway towards net-zero emissions. MPP is an initiative created by the World Economic Forum and the Energy Transitions Commission.

Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.

The move to green energy in Europe

The ‘New Generation’ study modelled the European electricity system to find the cheapest pathways to 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

It found that all three pathways lead to a clean power system by 2035 (95% low-emission, 70%-80% wind and solar). And, while initial investment could be as high as €750 billion, savings on fossil fuels could reach €1 trillion in total between now and 2035 – a figure that could be an underestimate if high fossil fuel prices persist.

Such a move would also bring benefits to the climate, human health and energy security, argue the report’s authors.

Bye-bye coal and gas, hello wind and solar

The report’s models see coal phased out entirely by 2030 and unabated gas cut to less than 5% of generation by the middle of the next decade.

To replace it?

Solar capacity needs to expand by up to nine times and wind capacity needs to quadruple. Emerging energy technologies will help manage supply and demand issues when solar and wind outputs are low, the authors say.

Such emerging technology is the focus of the World Economic Forum’s First Movers Coalition, which saw its membership expand at Davos 2022. The coalition aims to use the purchasing power of the world’s largest companies to drive the development and evolution of zero-carbon technologies in the world’s hardest-to-abate sectors.

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