Europe must push renewable energy production to achieve climate targets, study says

Author:
Ilario D'Amato
Reading time: 4 minutes
1 May 2015

LONDON: More than 45% of European electricity production would need to come from renewable energy sources by 2030, if Europe wants to meet its climate targets.

The finding comes from a just-published study on the electric sector in Europe by the non-government organization CDP.

The European Commission is pushing to cut European greenhouse gases emissions by 40% by 2030 - and 80% by 2050 - from 1990 levels. To achieve such a cost-efficient pathway, the report indicates the region must increase renewables production, switch from coal back to gas generation and set a carbon price significantly higher than the one defined by the European Emissions Trading Scheme.

“The good news for utility companies in Europe is that there is an increasing demand from the corporate sector for renewable power,” underlines Emily Farnworth, Campaign Director of RE100 at The Climate Group. “Many leading companies like KPN, Commerzbank and Swiss Re have made a commitment to go 100% renewable and achieve their goal through paying a premium for '100% renewable' power from the grid.

“With an increasing market for 100% renewable power, the electricity utilities may find they can go beyond their 45% target.”

The study from CDP demonstrates how following the pathway to use only renewable sources is a good choice for investors and businesses. Launching RE100’s first report RE100: The journey to 100% earlier this year, Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA Group, said: “Investing in renewable energy is good for business, the economy and the planet. Every business can benefit from making the switch to clean, abundant energy and RE100 is a call to action to accelerate this transition.”

Electric companies and carbon risk

CDP surveyed the main European electric utilities, accounting for about 80% of the electricity produced and representing €350 billion (US$380 billion) of the market cap. The report Flicking the switch: are electric utilities prepared for a low carbon future ranks the companies in a ‘Super-League Table’, scoring them against a range of emission-related metrics such as carbon risk, renewable energy sources, coal exposure and water risk.

Energy company Iberdrola tops this leaderboard, with renewables accounting for 26% of its production in 2013 – while being exposed to coal just for 9% of production in the same year. The company, which accounts for 4.7% of the market share in 2013, is continuously reducing its high carbon production and replacing it with renewables.

ENEL, the second largest utility listed in Europe by installed capacity and accounting for almost 10% of the market in 2013, is ranked fourth. Recently, ENEL pledged to phase out new investments in coal: “We are ready to tackle this challenge and lead the industry’s effort to reach this target,” says Francesco Starace, CEO, ENEL.

Energias de Portugal (EDP) ranks fifth due to the fact the company, which is one of the world leaders in renewables, in the last few years has been replacing its reduced gas production and some renewables with increased coal production. As a result, EDP’s emissions intensity increased over the years analyzed by CDP.

Électricité de France (EDF) led the market share in 2013 with 24.7%, but it comes sixth in CDP’s leaderboard. The company is the largest coal plant owner in the study, accounting for 24 gigawatts of capacity. But its coal exposure is relatively low – at 8% by production. Most of the company’s production comes from nuclear energy, accounting for 74% of its production, a number that keeps EDF’s emissions intensities among the lowest analyzed.

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by Ilario D'Amato

Climate Week Paris takes place from May 18-24, 2015. See the full calendar of events at ClimateWeekParis.org

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