A new study shows that a key step towards achieving climate neutrality in the EU is a rapid shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy-powered electricity technologies. At the same time, hydrogen produced from electricity will also be indispensable in electricity-intensive sectors such as aviation, shipping and chemicals. By 2050, electricity and hydrogen are key strategies to reach climate neutrality based on renewable energy. Future EU transition scenarios developed by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research PIK investigate the roles of electricity and hydrogen and find that 42-60% for electricity and 9% for hydrogen-based energy. Shares of -26% are required in total energy consumption. By 2050.

“Previous research has shown that our electricity system can be converted to renewable sources such as wind and solar at low cost and low environmental impact. However, the next question is how to harness this renewable electricity in buildings, industries How fossil fuels can be used as alternatives to fossil fuels Our analysis shows that direct use of electricity, for example through electric cars and heat pumps, is important for a wide range of sectors. While the conversion of electricity to hydrogen is only important for a few applications,” says Felix. Schreyer, PIK scientist and lead author of the study.

The study, published in One Earth, is the first to analyze the interplay of electricity and hydrogen in EU climate neutrality scenarios. This analysis shows high potential for electrification and indicates a more limited deployment range than previous studies for hydrogen-based energy. Using the energy-economy model REMIND, PIK-scientists investigated the feasible combination of both strategies in the transition paths of the EU energy system under different scenario assumptions. They found that in all scenarios, direct electrification is the dominant strategy for heating passenger cars and low temperatures in buildings and industry, while electrified hydrogen and synthetic fuels are primarily aviation, Needed for shipping, chemical industry and power storage. Therefore, electricity and hydrogen are largely complementary, while they compete for only a small fraction of 15% of the final energy. These uncertain segments include sectors such as truck transport and high-temperature industrial process heat.

Three foundations for a successful transition: driving the expansion of renewables, removing barriers and providing incentives

“Increasing the supply of renewable electricity and switching to electric technologies wherever possible is by far the fastest and cheapest way to eliminate carbon emissions in most sectors. So we expect that in the final energy The share of electricity will increase from 20% to 42-60%,” says co-author Gunnar Löderer, leader of the Energy Systems Group at PIK. This is because electric technologies are increasingly available and use electricity very efficiently, while conversion to hydrogen and synthetic fuels and their combustion cause significant energy losses. Overall, EU electricity demand in 2050 increases by 80-160% in their scenarios, depending on the amount of hydrogen imports and the role of electricity and hydrogen in uncertain sectors. This means that by then almost twice as much electricity will have to be generated as compared to today.

The authors also discuss the current state of EU policy on electricity and hydrogen and outline three key foundations for a successful transition: policy-making should 1) prioritize electricity and hydrogen in these sectors, respectively; Where they are preferred in all scenarios, 2) removing barriers to renewable electricity expansion and 3) scaling up hydrogen supply chains.

“Our study highlights that policy makers should respect the roles of the different sectors of both strategies: by promoting electrification through electrification applications for road transport and heating systems while applications preferring hydrogen and synthetic fuels where they are indispensable,” says PIK scientist and co-author Falko Ueckerd. .