Neither fast enough nor strong enough … Regarding the ecological transition in Europe, start from this a priori may seem at low risk of error. However, let’s look at the data. They are abundant in the matter, even if their use is complex, as there are a multitude of concepts and perimeters to address the energy balance. Let’s start from Europe’s climate objectives. The 2020 climate-energy package signed in 2008, set the famous 20-20-20 target at European level by 2020 (20% renewable energy in the energy mix, 20% reduction in energy consumption compared to the trend increase, and the 20% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to 1990. Changing the energy mix and controlling consumption through better efficiency are at the heart of the European strategy.
The 2030 targets require a change of pace
On paper, we can say that Europe is almost in the nails, even if the data stops at 2018. The objective of reducing GHGs is already achieved since between 1990 and 2017, these have down 21.7%. Behind this development, there are:
1. improved energy efficiency. Compared to its 2020 dropout target of 20% compared to the trend scenario, the EU is in 2018 at 4.6% of its target for primary energy consumption, and at 3.5% for final consumption. The objective will not be fully achieved in 2020, but quite a bit. 2. a real change in the energy mix towards renewable energy. In line with the objectives, the share of energy from renewable sources in final gross energy consumption reached 18% in the European Union in 2018, the objective of 20% being within reach in 2020.On this basis, one might think that the 2030 objectives are credited. As a reminder, it is for Europe:
1. reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% (compared to 1990 levels); 2. to bring the share of renewable energies to at least 32%; 3. improve energy efficiency by at least 32.5%.
Except that in view of the progress made over the past 10 years, starting from the bottom, this is a very serious acceleration. Knowing that the last period was helped by the break in potential growth in 2008. This change of pace is not doing the same thing as in previous years, but a little more strongly.
The utopia of 100% renewable
So far, the greatest sobriety has been achieved incrementally, without disruption of uses. Whether in industry, transport, commerce or households, there has been a gradual and continuous shift towards electricity for 30 years: 25% in 1990 to 34.2% in 2018 in industry , 34.5% to 47% in trade, 19.1 to 24.6% for households. And it is essentially the gradual shift in the sources of electricity production that has changed the European energy mix. The share of fossil-based electricity increased from 56 to 40%. That of nuclear origin has eroded, from 31 to 25%. While the share of renewables increased from 13 to 33%. Mainly due to the extension of the wind farm and much more marginally from photovoltaics. And noteworthy, in 2016, 90% of the new installed electricity production capacity came from renewable energy sources, notably wind power.
Accelerating the walk means today modifying the consumption structure of the transport sector, fossilized without the fossil. Behind this, there is a productive issue of reconfiguring automobile value chains, which manufacturers are constantly deferring, given the considerable industrial risk and the cost induced by the downgrading of investments. There is also an infrastructure issue. Above all, however, there is a considerable induced increase in final electricity consumption. This challenge has been met so far by the ramp-up of renewable energy. But the growth in electricity production implied by the new stages of the ecological transition cannot, in the state of technology, be met 100% by renewable energy.
On the Chinese side, this impasse was arbitrated, by opting for a rise in nuclear power. On the European side, the objectives are clear. But the unsaid on nuclear power and the absence of a clear industrial policy on the automobile pose a very heavy mortgage on the achievement of the next stages of the climate transition.
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