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  • Final Report Summary - EUSUSTEL (European Sustainable Electricity; Comprehensive Analysis of Future European Demand and Generation of European Electricity and its Security of Supply)

EUSUSTEL Sintesi della relazione

Project ID: 6602
Finanziato nell'ambito di: FP6-POLICIES
Paese: Belgium

Final Report Summary - EUSUSTEL (European Sustainable Electricity; Comprehensive Analysis of Future European Demand and Generation of European Electricity and its Security of Supply)

In this project on European sustainable electricity, a comprehensive analysis of the future European demand and generation of European electricity and its security of supply is made. 10 different scientific and academic partners from all over Europe have worked together on the different work packages (WPs). To help guarantee that the views of the scientists were not too different from what real life shows, during the project, there was an intensive interaction with the electric industry, especially via its umbrella organisation, Eurelectric.

All the partners in the EUSUSTEL project, from 10 different member states in the European Union (EU), were contacted to describe the current national energy policy on a level of all 25 EU Member States.

The demand for electricity is not easy to predict. Electricity demand is closely related to the demand of energy services and to the efficiencies and costs of end-use technologies. The economic growth and the share of the different sectors (e.g. services versus industry) influence the demand for energy and electricity as well. The fuel prices are another important factor. They have a non-negligible impact on both economic growth and the demand for energy services, but they are very uncertain to predict.

The most important technologies for electricity generation (and storage) were treated, ranging from well-established ones all the way up to unconventional and even speculative conversion technologies. Each of these technologies was scrutinised, especially with its potential for further development in the future. In addition, the integration of decentralised generation into the overall electricity generation system was treated, both from an energetic-technical and environmental point of view.

In order to come up with a consistent set of data, a data comparison was performed. The main purpose of the review was to determine a consistent data set for further activities, such as computation of electricity generating costs.

The current legislation and regulation of energy markets were discussed. At first, the content of the main European directives and regulations establishing the current energy market in Europe were discussed. Next, a state of affairs of the internal energy market was presented. Finally, boundary conditions and guidelines for the proper functioning of future energy markets were provided.

The private cost of generating electricity may include in addition to the Average lifetime levelised generation cost (ALLGC) also other cost items that may vary from region to region, from time to time. Such cost items may be for example environmental taxes on fuels, carbon emission charges, system integration costs, etc.

A few interesting observations were made from the cost calculations:
- coal-fired and nuclear condensing power had close to same generation costs and ranked best in the comparison;
- new technologies demonstrated an impressive progress in cost reduction over time;
- cost of on-shore wind fully competes with traditional base load power plants from 2020 onwards and may even provide the cheapest electricity of all generation technologies;
- the choice of the interest rate influences as expected the electricity cost of investment heavily, but this does not essentially change the mutual ranking;
- the cost reductions for mature technologies such as natural gas, nuclear and coal-fired power generation turned out to be quite small up to 2030;
- the largest cost reductions were expected with photovoltaics (PVs), or a factor of 5-6 from today up to 2030; but this required a true market breakthrough of PV in large scale.

The introduction of wind power or any other intermittent energy source on a large scale, affects the electricity-generation system. The inflexibility, variability, and relative unpredictability of intermittent energy sources are the most obvious barriers to an easy integration and widespread application of wind power. In addition, since the technology is relatively new, still many unanswered questions remain concerning wind power. The knowledge on the use and operation of wind power in a multitude of electricity-generation systems is not based on the same amount of experience as for conventional technologies.

Although wind power is probably the most studied intermittent energy source, many issues still require more investigation. The effects of several parameters, such as the gate closure time, the geographical spread, the composition of the electricity-generation system, the extent of the wind power introduction and the backup provision rules, on the short and long term, remain ambiguous to a certain extent. Moreover, most systems are modelled for the operation of conventional power plants.

Overall emissions can be significantly reduced whenever biomass units are installed and whenever this amount is increased. However, one may not forget that sufficient qualitative resources are needed to supply those units. Massive introduction of other decentralised sources (e.g. solar and wind) result in emission reductions as well, but to a much lesser extent. For Wind energy conversion systems (WECS), the emission reduction potential increases with the amount of installed units, but only sub-linearly. If the output profile could be smoothened, the reduction potential would become larger because of the more efficient use of the base load plants. The introduction of capacity credits reduces the emission reduction potential, compared to the situation without bringing into account capacity credits. This is related to the inhibiting of the renewing evolution of the power system, which would naturally lead to reduced emissions.

An externality is commonly defined as a cost that arises when the social or economic activities of one group of persons have an impact on another group and that impact is not fully accounted for by the first group. During the operation of a power station, there are some emissions which cause damages to human health, crops and materials among others, generating an externality because the resulting impacts are not taken into account by the generator. Externalities also arise in other stages of the fuel cycle, up and downstream, such as the mining and processing of the fuels, the construction of the plant, the waste treatment and the final decommissioning. Thus, to fully calculate the external costs all the main impacts from all the stages have to be considered.

For present and future years, the highest external costs correspond to coal technologies followed by fuel cells and coal technologies with CO2 capture and sequestration. Then follow biomass gasification and natural gas technologies. In the first periods, biomass gasification shows higher values than gas technologies.

Regarding the renewable technologies, photovoltaic technologies external costs drop through time mainly due to increments in efficiency. Wave and tidal have the highest costs for the renewable technologies, while geothermal and hydrothermal have the lowest. Wind energy presents intermediate values. Finally, nuclear fission technologies have similar costs to those from renewable technologies.

Given the variations in technical and economic parameters for the various generation technologies, a synthesis of all available information allows calculating the total social cost of electricity generation based on an illustrative data set. The total social costs of electricity generation summarise the private and external costs of a technology and therefore indicate its use of resources from an economic and environmental point of view. It can be regarded as a relative measure for sustainability.

Given the comparatively high overnight investment costs for wind and PV combined with the low utilisation rates due to wind supply and solar radiation, renewable electricity is becoming more competitive in the year 2030 but faces still higher total social costs.

As a part of the project, a scenario analysis was carried out. Four different scenarios were modelled with both the Primes and the TIMES-EG simulation code. The scope of the scenarios was 2030, and the emphasis was put on three pillars, of which the project partners believed to be three major challenges for the future European electricity provision. The first pillar was a reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions, the second focused on the security of supply, and the third on the costs of the electricity provision.

The Primes results illustrated that the baseline scenario represented an unsustainable evolution of the EU energy system. Non sustainability was evident with respect to carbon dioxide emissions and import dependence.

The TIMES-EG scenario analysis demonstrated that different policy measures for CO2 mitigation and security of supply strategies lead to significant differences in costs and performance of the electricity market in the EU. It can be concluded, that a policy which combines emission control strategies with the present technology policy measures is not projected to be the least cost strategy for the European electricity market. Support schemes for RES and the phase-out policy for nuclear generation in some of the European countries induce higher costs without reducing the import dependence of fossil fuel significantly. Assuming for a least cost approach to reach essential CO2 mitigation targets, nuclear generation and efficient natural gas power plants as well as modern coal based power plants with carbon capture and storage technologies were projected to be the most favourable options.

The results from the two models were substantially the same, in particular concerning electricity generation technologies. The main difference was that the split between coal and gas was more sensitive to parameter variations in TIMES. This is explained by the more straightforward optimisation in TIMES compared to Primes.

Electricity demand increases more than the primary energy demand. New uses like heat pumps, plug in hybrid vehicles or the development of second generation biofuels would increase the demand and require more production means. Europe is becoming more and more dependent upon outer countries as far as fossil fuels are concerned. This dependence cannot only be solved by a market approach since political issues are also concerned. Therefore, it is important that Europe enhance a diversification of supply sources and reduce its dependence on a specific country or region. Renewable energies as well as nuclear energy are essential if Europe wants to increase its security of supply and the number of jobs.

The concept of sustainable development is the generally accepted guiding principle for further development. Various international and national organisations have been developing criteria and sets of indicators to measure and assess one or more aspects of sustainable development. The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, the OECD and the European Commission have indicators for sustainable development in general.

Based on the analysis of the fundamentals of sustainable development and the various general definitions of the term, the following conceptual framework of a sustainable energy development was considered appropriate.

An energy supply system can be regarded as sustainable, if:
- the potential for a beneficial supply of energy services for the following generations increases (or does not decrease), i.e. the technically-economically accessible resource base for the provision of energy services can be extended;
- the substance release due to energy use does not exceed the absorption capacity of natural resources as a sink;
- energy services are provided with the least resource input possible, including the environmental resources.

Although the European energy scene is constantly evolving, there are some challenges which remain constantly present. The first challenge is about the sustainable character of the energy and electricity provision. The second challenge forms the link between the environmental consequences of energy and electricity provision and the reality of the existing economic framework, i.e. the liberalised market. A third major challenge is the one about security of supply. In the EU, oil and gas account for a high proportion of energy use generally. Good R&D priorities are necessary in order to focus on some technology options which give both an answer to the environmental concerns and on the issue of security of supply.

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