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IEA: Carbon-neutral Nordic energy system possible


IEA press release on 22nd January, 2013

The International Energy Agency (IEA) releases their new assessment of the Nordic region – Nordic Energy Technology Perspectives – detailing scenarios for how the region can become carbon-neutral by 2050. The IEA points to sector-wide changes, including a ten-fold increase in wind generation, significant grid build-out and a revolution of the transport sector.

Nordic Energy Technology Perspectives is the first ever regional edition of the IEA’s renowned global publication Energy Technology Perspectives. While based on the same global scenarios to limit average temperature increase to 2°C, the Nordic edition includes an even more ambitious scenario. This Carbon-Neutral Scenario assesses how the Nordic countries can achieve their ambitious national emission reduction targets for 2050 as a region.

In order to achieve this scenario, the analysis calls for a complete decarbonisation of electricity generation by 2050. Wind generation grows from just 3% today to 25% of generation in 2050, highlighting the need for a ramp up in grid infrastructure investment. With the right infrastructure and pricing in place, the Nordic region could achieve annual exports of 50 to 100 terawatt hours (TWh) over the longer term. The report sees Nordic hydropower resources as increasingly valuable in regulating the North European power system.

Transportation will require greater emission reductions by 2050 than any other sector, to just an eighth of its current level. By 2050, 90% of light vehicle sales would be electric or hybrid, with the majority of freight transportation dependent on biofuels. This highlights the need for technology development in electric and biofuel-based mobility, and the importance of securing a sustainable supply of biomass.

Demand for energy in 2050 drops by 7% from today’s level in the Carbon-Neutral Scenario. Widespread energy efficiency improvements in buildings, industry and transport will be needed, while CCS must be employed in the industrial sector in order to achieve the target. The report also highlights the potential for greater regional cooperation in RD&D, as well as strategies for infrastructure, transport and CCS.

The IEA sees the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden as leaders in the global transition to a low-carbon energy system advocated by the Energy Technology Perspectives series. All five countries have announced ambitious emission reduction targets for 2050 and there are clear synergies in tackling this challenge as a region. Considering its rich renewable energy resources and strong policies already in place, the Nordic region could be the first in the world to achieve a carbon-neutral energy system – but it will not be easy.

The project is a cooperation between the IEA, leading research institutes from all five Nordic countries, and Nordic Energy Research. Nordic Energy Research is an intergovernmental organisation under the Nordic Council of Ministers, supporting sustainable energy research cooperation within the Nordic region.

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