A new report shows that Europe's energy needs will continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels in the short to medium term despite government efforts to move towards renewables.
The European Commission Joint Research Centre’s Institute for Energy published the report, which explores a number of scenarios for the evolution of the European electricity system. These scenarios involve alternative views for the role of nuclear and renewable power generation, the development of fossil fuels, CO2 prices and advances in technology.
The study found that, in a business-as-usual scenario, around 635GW of new fossil fuel power plant capacity would be needed in the European Union (EU) by 2030 to meet the increasing demand for electricity. This would require an investment of between €250bn to €600bn (£214bn to £514bn).
In the short term, the report forecasts that the increased use of natural gas would reduce CO2 emissions and increase the competitiveness of European industry by maintaining low electricity prices.
Europe is expected to continue to rely on coal and gas for the bulk of its power generation in the short to medium term.
However, since there is no need for immediate investment in more expensive coal technologies, the report has warned that the long-term security of energy supply could be at risk, as well as the ability to meet EU sustainability targets.
The report claims that if there is no significant increase in the penetration of nuclear and renewable energy technologies, annual CO2 emissions from the power sector will only reach a 20 per cent reduction by 2020.
It concludes that for a sustainable and secure energy system with significantly reduced CO2 emissions it is vital to invest in a non-fossil fuel power infrastructure as well as carbon capture technologies that can be ready for immediate deployment.