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Roadmap 2050: Pathways to Achieving a Low-Carbon Economy in Europe
Alison Killing, 4 Oct 10

The European Climate Foundation's Roadmap 2050 project analyzes a series of ways in which Europe could achieve a zero carbon economy by 2050 and comes to some very positive conclusions about the feasibility of achieving that goal. Foremost, the project team asserts that a zero carbon energy sector is essential to the development of a zero carbon economy and that drastically reducing emissions and increasing renewable energy generation are more easily realizable than they are often considered to be. The crux is that action towards de-carbonization needs to start now. (A short summary of the project team's findings and methodology is available online in this PDF.)

Roadmap 2050 found that several long held assumptions about renewable energy were incorrect:

These included assertions that high-renewable energy scenarios would be too unstable to provide sufficient reliability, that high-renewable scenarios would be uneconomic and much more costly, and that technology breakthroughs would be required to move Europe to a zero-carbon power sector.

In short, a "low/zero-carbon pathway" to a zero carbon energy sector is reliable, cost-effective, and technologically possible now.

According to Roadmap 2050, one of the ways that Europe could strengthen its renewable energy generation would be to integrate renewable power generation across the continent so that surpluses and deficits are balanced out. Northern European countries have a greater potential for wind power than southern countries, and are able to produce more electricity in the winter and less in the summer. Conversely, the countries of southern Europe have huge potential to generate solar power in the summer, but less capacity to do so in the winter. A pan-continental power grid would even out this imbalance.

Eneropa © AMO | "The image of “Eneropa” appears as a new continent based on its energy production: Biomassburg, Geothermalia, Solaria, the Tidal States." (via ArchDaily)

The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) worked with the European Climate Foundation on Roadmap 250 and put together a conceptual visualization of what a pan-continental European power sector might look like on a map. Their idea for an "Eneropa" re-imagines and renames the countries of Europe according to their potential for producing different types of renewable power. For example, the southern states are recast as 'Solaria', while those with an Atlantic coastline become the 'Tidal States'.

OMA's work on Roadmap 2050 supports the optimism and ambition of the project, with beautiful and elegant graphics that explain the team's ideas. They used a variety of media to produce a graphic narrative for the project, including these two short films, and this PDF slideshow. (The first short film is embedded below.)

The Roadmap 2050 report was first published in April of this year. The team is now working on national launches in the EU's member states to publicize it further and garner the feedback necessary to begin putting the recommendations into practice.

In order to successfully de-carbonize the European power sector by 2050, there needs to be a substantial investment in new infrastructure and policy development before 2015. For example, the EU will need to create a more integrated electricity grid and smart grids, expand carbon capture and storage, and develop the regulatory structures and market mechanisms that are needed for this all to run smoothly. Roadmap 2050 has already succeeded in creating a significant shift in the debate around the transition to low carbon power in Europe, steps taken over the next few years will be vital in seeing this goal realized.

Alison Killing is an architect and urbanist based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Recent articles by Alison for Worldchanging:

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Bravo.I love that all of europes power demnaded can be produced in a carbon free way using existing technology. Now we need to come up with an effective plan to reduce greenhouse gases in the US.

Posted by: Dana Jeffers on 4 Oct 10

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