Europe could save EUR900bn ($1.2bn) and still hit its 2050 carbon reduction targets if it built fewer wind farms and more gas plants, a coalition of gas producers has told the European Commission.
According to British daily The Guardian, the industry is lobbying against the possibility of the commission setting new renewable energy targets and phasing out the use of gas. Next month, it will publish a draft "road map" energy strategy to 2050.
The Guardian has obtained a copy of an unpublished report by consultancy McKinsey, commissioned by the European Gas Advocacy Forum, which also includes Gazprom, Centrica, Qatar Petroleum, ENI, E.ON, GDF Suez, Shell and Statoil. The report, which has been sent to the commission, describes gas as a clean, plentiful and relatively cheap form of energy and challenges the idea that renewable forms of energy should be the primary way to cut emissions.
The report estimated the costs of building thousands of wind farms and vast new electricity grids to connect them to meet the EU's legally binding target of reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent against 1990 levels by 2050. One authoritative study has estimated that 60 per cent of energy would have to come from renewable sources to hit this ambitious target.
But the McKinsey analysis suggested the same carbon emissions reductions could be achieved with far less renewable generation – significantly less than half the total energy mix. It argued that the emissions reductions could be made by using less coal-fired generation, which is twice as carbon intensive as gas, and three times as much gas generation.
It said this would save EUR900bn by 2050, although hitting the targets would still need about EUR350bn more investment than is envisaged on current policies. The plan assumed that from 2030 most gas plants would use carbon capture and storage to reduce emissions, though the technology remains unproven on a large scale.
The McKinsey report also said Europe's own largely undeveloped shale gas resources could meet the continent's needs for 30 years based on current demand.
Maria McCaffery, chief executive of trade body RenewableUK, acknowledged that burning gas resulted in fewer carbon emissions than coal or oil, but said: "Gas is no substitute for renewable energy. Never in a million years would we call it green."
For more policy news, click here