Sector coupling: Electrification of transport and buildings could slash emissions by 60%

Mass-Scale electrification of the transport, buildings and industrial sectors could enable Europe to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% over the next 30 years, according to a new report published today by research company BloombergNEF (BNEF).

Power generation capacity may have to grow by 75% to account for additional demand

Power generation capacity may have to grow by 75% to account for additional demand

Written in partnership with Eaton and Statkraft the report, Sector Coupling in Europe: Powering Decarbonisation, outlines that a plethora of direct and indirect changes would see power account for 60% of the final energy demand across those sectors, compared to just 10% now. As such, the report notes that power generation capacity may need to grow by 75% between now and 2050.

BNEF’s head of global policy analysis Victoria Cuming said: “Electrification, or ‘sector coupling’ as it’s known in some countries, could make a huge contribution to the achievement of governments’ emission-reduction targets by exploiting the low-carbon transition already underway in the power generation sector.”

Direct and indirect

Direct changes would include the growth and integration of electric vehicles (EVs) into the transport sector and BNEF has previously predicted that EVs will account for more than half of new car sales by 2040. Direct changes would also see massive growth of electric heating systems in buildings, while indirect changes would be switching to hydrogen – produced by electrolysis using renewable electricity – as a fuel to provide heat for buildings.

In order to generate the required expansion in power capacity by 2050, the report suggests that low-cost wind and solar power would account for most of it, while more flexible systems would also need to be prioritised.

Electrification of these sectors, of which transport is the largest emitter, wouldn’t account for full decarbonisation. That is due to hard-to-abate activities such as aviation and shipping and carbon-heavy industrial processes for cement and steel. While innovative solutions are emerging to combat these areas, the report notes that carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) and addressing agriculture and land use will assist with overall decarbonisation levels.

“Action from policymakers will be needed if these changes are to happen,” Cumings added. “Governments should introduce incentives or requirements to cut emissions from building heat, support demonstration projects for electrification, and iron out barriers to the production of green hydrogen. They should also consider how to engage energy consumers and civil society as they have a crucial role to play in enabling electrification of these new sectors.”

Sector coupling will become a new focus in Europe. As part of the European Green Deal, the European Commission (EC) looks set to publish a strategy on sector integration and coupling later this year.

According to Euractiv, the EC has already outlined that the first objective of sector coupling will be to increase direct electrification, notably in the sectors outlined by the BNEF report.

Matt Mace



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