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Decarbonizing Europe's power sector by 2050 — Analyzing the economic implications of alternative decarbonization pathways

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  • Jägemann, Cosima
  • Fürsch, Michaela
  • Hagspiel, Simeon
  • Nagl, Stephan

Abstract

The European Union aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80–95% in 2050 compared to 1990 levels. The transition towards a low-carbon economy implies the almost complete decarbonization of Europe's power sector, which could be achieved along various pathways. In this paper, we evaluate the economic implications of alternative energy policies for Europe's power sector by applying a linear dynamic electricity system optimization model in over 36 scenarios. We find that the costs of decarbonizing Europe's power sector by 2050 vary between 139 and 633bn €2010, which corresponds to an increase of between 11% and 44% compared to the total system costs when no CO2 reduction targets are implemented. In line with economic theory, the decarbonization of Europe's power sector is achieved at minimal costs under a stand-alone CO2 reduction target, which ensures competition between all low-carbon technologies. If, however, renewable energies are exempted from competition via supplementary renewable energy (RES-E) targets or if investments in new nuclear and CCS power plants are politically restricted, the costs of decarbonization significantly rise. Moreover, we find that the excess costs of supplementary RES-E targets depend on the acceptance of alternative low carbon technologies. For example, given a complete nuclear phase-out in Europe by 2050 and politically implemented restrictions on the application of CCS to conventional power plants, supplementary RES-E targets are redundant. While in such a scenario the overall costs of decarbonization are comparatively high, the excess costs of supplementary RES-E targets are close to zero.

Suggested Citation

  • Jägemann, Cosima & Fürsch, Michaela & Hagspiel, Simeon & Nagl, Stephan, 2013. "Decarbonizing Europe's power sector by 2050 — Analyzing the economic implications of alternative decarbonization pathways," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 622-636.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eneeco:v:40:y:2013:i:c:p:622-636
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eneco.2013.08.019
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