Moving toward competitive sustainable and secure energy for Europe

The European Union (EU) is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by between 80-95 % below 1990 levels by 2050. It has a clear agenda up to 2020. Now it is setting a new direction for its decarbonisation ambitions for the following 3 decades in order to provide certainty for investors, governments and citizens.

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Energy roadmap 2050 (COM(2011) 885 final of 15.12.2011).

The energy roadmap examines various scenarios for achieving a competitive low carbon economy by 2050 while ensuring security of energy supply. It demonstrates that whichever scenario is chosen the decarbonisation aims are feasible.

Key Points

To achieve the new energy system, the roadmap identifies the following factors:

the existing 2020 energy strategy, with its ability to help reduce emissions by 40 % by 2050, must be fully implemented;
the prime focus should be on energy efficiency, especially in new and old buildings, transport, products and appliances;
renewables have the potential to provide some 30 % of total EU energy consumption by 2030;
higher public and private investment is needed in R & D and technological innovation to make low-carbon energy commercially viable;
substituting gas for coal and oil can reduce emissions with existing technologies until at least 2030 or even 2035;
energy prices need to better reflect actual costs, especially when new investments are being made. The earlier this is done, the easier the change to a low-carbon system;
new energy infrastructure, for electric vehicles for example, and storage facilities are needed inside the EU and in neighbouring countries;
safety and security of traditional and new energy sources must remain paramount;
the EU should take a broader and more coordinated approach towards its international energy relations and moves to tackle climate change;
concrete milestones must be set for achievable goals and to give guidance to investors as the EU takes the next step by defining its 2030 policy framework.


Europe’s energy system needs to change for reasons of climate, security and the economy. Energy investment takes a long time to produce results. Decisions taken today are already shaping the energy system of 2050, as ageing infrastructure begins to be replaced and new forms of energy are developed. In this transformation, investors, both public and private, need a clear idea of the direction the EU is taking.

See also the European Commission’s energy strategy and roadmap 2050 webpages.

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Energy 2020: a strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy (COM(2010) 639 final of 10.11.2010).

The future of carbon capture and storage in Europe

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a technique of trapping carbon dioxide emissions from large sources, such as power plants, compressing and transporting them for safe storage deep in the ground. The technology has major potential to help mitigate climate change. However, the costs involved, particularly in capturing the emissions, are high.

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the future of carbon capture and storage in Europe (COM(2013) 180 final of 27.3.2013)

The European Commission’s communication stresses that CCS is a key technology in the transition to a competitive low-carbon economy by 2050. It is capable of reconciling rising demand for fossil fuels with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It outlines the progress made to date and seeks the views of interested parties on a number of options to encourage the wider and commercially viable use of the technology in the European Union (EU).

Key Points

Globally, over 20 demonstration scale CCS projects are operating successfully. Eight of these do the full capture, transport and storage. None are in the EU.

The communication identifies obstacles to wider use of CCS:

absence of economic rationale to invest in CCS given the low level of ETS prices;
public opposition to storing CO2 onshore (see background below);
sufficient storage capacity exists, but not all capacity is accessible or located close to CO2 emitters;
need for international cooperation.
Funding for large-scale CCS demonstration projects is available from the European energy programme for recovery and the NER300 programme.


CO2 can be stored in various places, notably oil, gas or deep saline reservoirs and unmineable coal seams. It must not come into contact with the atmosphere. Legislation in place since 2009 on the geological storage of CO2, known as the CCS Directive, stipulates how storage sites must be selected, permitted, operated and closed. They must demonstrate no significant risk of leakage or damage to human health or the environment.

A 2005 report by the intergovernmental panel on climate change concluded that geological reservoirs, if appropriately selected and managed, are ‘very likely’ to retain over 99 % of the stored CO2 for over 100 years and ‘likely’ to retain 99 % for longer than 1 000 years.

For more information, see the European Commission’s carbon capture and geological storage website.

State aid: environmental protection and energy

Communication on Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy 2014-2020

These European Commission guidelines are new rules on public support for environmental protection and energy to help renewable sources of energy enter the marketplace. Their aim is to support EU countries in reaching their 2020 climate targets while addressing the market distortions that may result from subsidies granted to renewable energy sources.

Key Points

The EU’s 2020 targets include 3 climate targets, which are as follows:

greenhouse gas emissions 20% (or even 30%, if the conditions are right) lower than 1990 levels;
20% of energy from renewables; and
20% increase in energy efficiency.
Moving towards market signals

In recent years, renewable energy sources have been heavily supported with fixed tariffs. This has encouraged the growth of renewables in the energy mix* and has put the EU on track to meeting its 20% renewables target.

However, this type of support has also sheltered the renewables sector from price signals (which, under normal circumstances, reflect supply-and-demand conditions) and has thus led to market distortions. In particular, electricity from renewable energy sources has been generated irrespective of the actual market demand. In fact, it has out-competed other forms of generation which have to rely solely on the market price to operate economically.

As renewable energy technologies mature and their production achieves a substantial market share, the sector will need to adapt to market signals (i.e. interpret market trends) and aid amounts should respond to falling production costs.


The new guidelines therefore aim to limit State aid support to what is truly necessary. This will be done partly by gradually moving from feed-in tariffs* to competitive bidding processes* for the allocation of public support. A pilot phase in 2015 and 2016 will allow EU countries to test competitive bidding procedures in a small share of their new electricity capacity.


The new guidelines also include criteria for supporting energy infrastructure, focusing on projects that improve cross-border energy flows and promote infrastructure in EU’s less developed regions.

Application & Background

The guidelines have applied since 1 July 2014 and remain valid until the end of 2020.

For more information, see:

Energy mix: the range of energy sources available.
Feed-in tariffs: tariffs under which those who generate electricity are paid a cost-based price for the renewable electricity they supply to the energy grid — the energy distribution system (comprising cables, substations, etc.) — which is independent of the market price.
Competitive bidding processes: normal public procurement procedures for the energy sector.


Communication from the Commission — Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy 2014-2020 (OJ C 200, 28.6.2014, pp. 1-55)


Important Notice! This website is provided for informational purposes only! It is a fundamental condition of the use of this website that no liability is accepted for any loss or damage caused by reason of any error, omission, or misstatement in its contents. 

Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *