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    Monday, April 19, 2010


    A zero-carbon European power system in 2050: proposals for a policy package
    P.A. Boot and B. Van Bree, April 2010, (Energy Research Center of the Netherlands)

    The Tea Partiers are a pain to some but they are making all that noise for a reason.

    A successful 1950s movie director used to say he thought about film critics as patients and himself as the doctor. They were telling him they had a pain (in the movie) and his job was to diagnose. He said they often were wrong about the cause of the pain because they weren’t doctors trained in diagnosis.

    The Tea Partiers have a pain. Like anybody in pain, they need a doctor to diagnose the problem though, like many in pain, they believe they know the cause of the pain. Reasonable analysis suggests their pain deserves attention but their diagnosis is ill informed.

    A more studied diagnosis, from among the most likely differentials, is that short term thinking has led to unhealthful practices and made the nation ill. The treatment plan is a long term commitment to healthful habits (in financial matters, in health insurance matters and in energy and environment matters).

    The important question: What will get decision-makers to commit to the smart, long term plans everybody knows are the healthiest choices? For instance, U.S. energy policy is a lot like a diabetic patient with a sweet-tooth. What will inspire the patient to put down the Godiva truffles and get on the treadmill?

    A zero-carbon European power system in 2050: proposals for a policy package, from the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands, is a long term plan for the European Union. It is the second of a three part European Climate Foundation (ECF) Roadmap 2050 project that, through (1) analysis, (2) policy advice, and (3) outreach seeks to define a coherent energy future and how to get there. U.S. planners can learn a lot from it, both about specifics and about perspective.

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    If the report offered nothing else, it makes this crucial point: It is possible to make the limited emissions reductions necessary to meet 2020 goals without creating the changes in how energy is produced and used that will make it possible to meet 2050 emissions reduction needs. Policy makers must not let this happen.

    The first (analysis) part of the ECF project came to 9 conclusions that call for more emphasis on (1) building Energy Efficiency (EE), (2) building New Energy, (3) phasing out Old Energy, (4) building new trans-European transmission and (5) creating interlocking trans-European energy markets that increase the cost of GhGs and make the cost of New Energy more competitive.

    The new paper describes challenges in 2 crucial policy areas, (1) driving new EE investment beyond the 2020 goal of 20% improvement all the way to 2050 and (2) getting growth started by 2015 toward making 80%-to-95% of the generation of EU electricity emissions-free by 2050. Its 9 central proposals are aimed at achieving the requirements described in the previous paper for building EE, New Energy, new trans-European transmission and new interlocking trans-European energy markets with incentives to phase out Old Energy and reduce the cost of New Energy.

    More than a footnote: As this report demonstrates, EU leaders remain fixated on the false hope offered by “clean” coal. This could be quite literally a disastrous miscalculation. Politicians in the U.S., the EU and the rest of the world must get over this delusion and move to real New Energy commitments soon. The success of the world’s fight against global climate change may rest on EU leaders coming to their senses on this issue.

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    The Roadmap 2050 project has 3 parts, (1) analysis, (2) policy and (3) outreach. The new report focuses on the policies that are needed to achieve the energy measures defined by the previous report.

    Not on terminology: It is more common in Europe than in the U.S. to use terms like “decorbonised” and “zero carbon” to describe the future New Energy economy that eliminates greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs).

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    The first (analysis) part of the ECF project made 9 main points:

    (1) Much more aggressive Energy Efficiency measures are essential to achieving the needed 2050 goals.
    (2) To avoid the worst impacts of global climate change, GhGs must be cut 80%-to-95% by 2050. To do this, electricity must be generated almost entirely from non-GhG generating sources so that heating and transport can transition to them.
    (3) Existing technology can meet the expected demand for “reliable, affordable near zero-carbon” electricity by 2050 and anticipated technology advances will likely bring that supply sooner and at a lower cost.
    (4) This paper used three possible 2050 energy scenarios, including one in which New Energy meets 40% of demand and the rest comes from nuclear and “clean” coal (CCS) and one in which New Energy meets 80% of demand. Each of the three has different but significant challenges.

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    (5) New Energy can meet baseload electricity demand, despite its variability, whether the number of Old Energy baseload plants grows or not.
    (6) New Energy can operate alongside the Old Energy (nuclear and coal and natural gas with CCS) plants in high proportions now and the ability to integrate New Energy into the mix will grow.
    (7) Market demand will grow before 2020 for new, “low-carbon” electricity supply but will not grow enough to deal with climate change without market signals and regulations that block the economic viability of building Old Energy and encourage the retirement of existing plants.
    (8) Extensive development of new transmission linking energy supplies throughout Europe is a prerequisite for meeting 2050 needs.
    (9) Technologies to (a) make transmission more capable and efficient and (b)give grid operators the ability to manage demand loads will require significant investment.

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    The new paper describes two challenges for policy makers and breaks the second one into five specific points:

    (1) Investment must drive the achievement of 20% improvement in Energy Efficiency (EE) by 2020 and be designed to keep growing EE through 2050.

    (2) The transition to “a nearly full decarbonised power sector” must begin by 2015 with (a) retirement of existing “high-carbon” (Old Energy) generation, (b) bringing to market and deploying New Energy, (c) making viable the economic case for New Energy, (d) building new transmission linking EU regions without delay, and (e) making investments in smart transmission and a smart grid viable.

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    The new paper suggests 9 new policy approaches to meet the 2050 goals:

    (1) Improve the policies that now drive EE because a 1.6% per year growth and not the current 1% per year growth is needed to meet the 2020 20% improvement goal.
    (2) The current EU ETS Directive (the "triple 20 by 2020" calling for getting 20% of EU power from New Energy sources, improving EE 20% and cutting emissions 20% by 2020) must be made more demanding.
    (3) Policies must more aggressively drive the growth of New Energy and the development of CCS.
    (4) Connect the current transmission system with ongoing transmission deployment of EU member states.
    (5) National and regional policies must more specifically define and target the best New Energy mixes.
    (6) National and regional roadmap planning must include the building of transmission infrastructure and bring transmission planners into the planning and development process.
    (7) Policies must shape energy markets to drive smart grid technologies and advances in demand-side response nd consider alternative market designs.
    (8) Policies must create still stronger transport emissions standards and drive the emergence of new transport technologies.
    (9) An EU-wide Climate and Resource Directive could drive GhG-cuts in nations not participating in the EU’s Cap&Trade system.

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    It will require a comprehensive package of policies to drive the growth of EE beyond 20% and beyond 2020. The package should include:
    (1) Standards aimed at making half of all new residences “passive” (and possibly “near net zero energy”) by 2015 and 100% of new structures passive by 2020.
    (2) Standards that get 2 - 3% of the existing structures retrofitted yearly.
    (3) Automatic adjustments to all standards and labels and EE technology advances.
    (4) EE obligations for utilities with incentives to innovate and comply.

    The Strategic Energy Technology (SET) plan is aimed at a trans-EU development of New Energy capacity. To advance deployment and funding, New Energy cost and performance must be improved. EU leaders must accept that CCS, thought to be a crucial technology, is lagging due to high costs and uncertainties about safety and will continue to do so.

    Policies aims and considerations:
    (1) Set specific New Energy targets and drive research, development and deployment (RD&D).
    (2) For New Energy growth beyond 2020, RD&D should include smart grids and grid integration capabilities.
    (3) An EU-wide incentive system is not immediately necessary and could interfere with member nation programs.
    (3) By 2015, an EU-wide incentive system should be considered.
    (4) Subsidies for New Energy should be phased out by 2030, replaced by price parity created by improved technology and a high GhG price in created by emissions caps and emissions trading markets.
    (4) Though this report suggests otherwise, NewEnergyNews believes CCS RD&D will show "clean" coal to be a dead end, hopefully before it is too late to do the other things necessary to turn back catastrophic global climate change. Small-scale demonstration plants already show CCS is not cost-effective. Large-scale demonstrations scheduled for 2014-16 will likely go over budget and may not even be finished. The report sets 2015 as the deadline to reconsider CCS. Good idea.
    (5) The question of nuclear energy also hinges on cost. Building new nuclear plants will likely be prohibitively expensive. RD&D may focus on next generation technology. Regulation requiring a safe solution for the storage of waste could either produce an answer to the dilemma or defeat nuclear energy as an option.

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    The EU must grow its transmission infrastructure in reach and capability.
    (1) Locational pricing as an incentive to build wires where they are needed will drive better siting and growth in the right places and could act as an incentive for New Energy growth.
    (2) EU transmission system operators (TSOs) should be brought into the process of developing an EU Infrastructure Plan.
    (3) Rewards to TSOs for better service could make more funding available for new transmission infrastructure and more New Energy.
    (4) Balancing and integrating the New and Old Energies will become more important as more New Energy capacity is available. TSOs may see this as an incentive to invest in electricity storage if policies develop new electricity market opportunities.
    (5) Policies should facilitate three “crucial” things: (a) the deployment of smart meters, (b) the growth and integration of distributed generation, and (c) smart grids.
    (6) Policies should grow regional and national experiments in more capable and smarter transmission.

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    Policies should shape the marketplace in favor of EE and New Energy investment. One of the keys to this would be an EU-wide power market. To get there, the paper proposes policies that:
    (1) require governments to draft ‘regional roadmaps’ of their preferred New Energies so that developers and transmission builders know where to invest;
    (2) require and reward more investment in and development of smart capabilities to achieve higher proficiency at demand management ("load shaping"); and
    (3) facilitate new, more malleable electricity markets with flexible and uncapped prices and long-term contracts to stimulate more funding to generation that is a good but capital intensive investment.

    The paper urges policy makers to create a market "pull" for New Energy investment. This would include policies that:
    (1) Increase the caps on GhGs in the EU emissions trading system (ETS) which would increase the price on emissions allowances (EUAs), driving investment toward New Energy and EE. The paper calls for a new goal of 30% GhG cuts by 2020, requiring the EU overall to cut its GhGs 2.75% per year from 2013-to-2020. A concomitant adjustment in the United Nations (UN) Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) would also be necessary.
    (2) A policy package of financial incentives and other regulatory provisions should compliment this GhG-oriented approach.

    In the transport sector, policies should facilitate the coming revolutionary transition to plug-in vehicles.
    (1) Standards for passenger cars should toughen.
    (2) There should be incentives for short-term investments in electric vehicles (EV) and the development of hydrogen technology.
    (3) Incentives should be directed at building EV infrastructure and new technologies after 2020.
    (4) The paper speculates that ships, planes and heavy transport will increasingly be fuelled by biofuels beyond 2020.

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    - From the policy proposals document: “To reiterate: attaining a zero-carbon power supply is not ‘more of the same’. New policy instruments are urgently needed. All technologies are known, policy instruments have been investigated and most of them have been discussed or are being considered in several member states. It is also about risk management. When investments in generation, grids or energy efficiency are being considered, some options that are perceived as being too risky or complicated are not preferred, even when they would have made sense economically. Reduction of risks is therefore addressed in the policy package. The subject of this working document is to investigate relevant policies while preserving or improving the effectiveness of the European internal energy market. It seems possible to attain a reliable and affordable zero-carbon power system. However, this requires considerable investments that are not foreseen yet, and both better implementation of existing policy instruments and adoption of new policy measures.”

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    - From the policy proposals document: “The main part of the existing European power grid has limited inter-regional transfer capability. Indigenous low-carbon resources are plentiful but unevenly distributed across the EU. Aggregate on- and off-peak spread across the EU is much lower than localised spreads, but the effect emerges over a wide geographic area. To a large extent solar PV and wind power are inversely correlated in Europe. The current structure of the single market, with no locational pricing, no regional infrastructure planning is not designed to deliver the transmission or distribution infrastructure for a zero-carbon power system…If the power system would achieve a 20% reduction of peak demand due to demand-side response by 2050, 15 to 25% less grid capacity would be needed for all pathways4. This is only possible if hard and soft infrastructure for ‘smart’ load management is implemented by the mid-2020s to support the 2050 ambition. New technologies and new operational practices will require considerable amounts of testing; only multiple pilot models will deliver the necessary diversity. The current regulatory framework is poorly adapted to driving investment…”

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    - From the policy proposals document: “…a European system of greenhouse gas emissions trading has to be further improved by decisions to be taken in the next years. But to stimulate renewable energy, different national systems may remain for some time and there is ample time to learn from each other; a decision whether one European system is needed doesn’t have to be taken yet. Cooperation between countries at a regional level could be a stepping stone towards more common approaches. Energy efficiency policies will mainly remain national…Finally, a case for national CO2 taxes in non-ETS sectors exists. Several European countries have taken the lead…These taxes only slowly become really effective as they tend to start low but increase gradually. Although politically difficult, such an approach has shown to be an effective policy tool.”


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