By Isabella Kaminski

The 2050 Low Carbon Roadmap sets out a plan to meet the long-term target of reducing domestic emissions by 80-95% by 2050, as agreed by European heads of state and government, compared to 1990 levels.

EU member states have already committed themselves to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, increasing the share of renewable energy to 20%, and achieving a 20% energy efficiency target by 2020.

The document says: “Given that the central role of electricity in the low-carbon economy requires significant use of renewables, many of which have variable output, considerable investments in networks are required to ensure continuity of supply at all times. Investment in smart grids is a key enabler for a low-carbon electricity system, notably facilitating demand-side efficiency, larger shares of renewables and distributed generation and enabling electrification of transport.”

According to the roadmap, the EU's total primary energy consumption in 2050 could be about 30% below 2005 levels. More domestic energy resources would be used, particularly renewable energy.

In the built environment, it says that shifting energy consumption towards low-carbon electricity (including heat pumps and storage heaters) and renewable energy (e.g. solar heating, biogas, biomass) would help to protect consumers against rising fossil fuel prices and bring significant health benefits.

The roadmap also looks at the employment benefits of switching to renewable energy. “Investing early in the low-carbon economy would stimulate a gradual structural change in the economy and can create in net terms new jobs both in the short- and the medium-term. Renewable energy has a strong track record in job creation. In just five years, the renewable industry increased its work force from 230,000 to 550,000.”

Chris Huhne, the UK’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary, says: “The 2050 Low Carbon Roadmap must be a first step towards Europe setting a clear, cost-effective and ambitious plan to decarbonise its economy. We need a pathway that stimulates jobs and growth as well as reduces Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels from other countries.

“The roadmap shows that Europe’s current 20% target for 2020 isn’t enough or cost effective and shows that Europe’s already got the policies and the tools to cut emissions by 25% at home. This makes the case for going to 30% stronger and more urgent.”