Infrastructure Needs for Climate-Neutral Industry in Europe

Policy Brief: decarbonisation of basic industries in Europe needs integrated and coordinated strategy for renewable energies and infrastructure deployment

  • News 10.06.2020

The Policy Brief published today by the Wuppertal Institute on the study "Infrastructure needs for deep decarbonisation of heavy industries in Europe" analyses the infrastructure requirements for the full decarbonisation of chemical, steel, and cement industry in Europe by 2050.

A climate-neutral transformation of heavy industry in Europe is feasible but poses a major challenge for the respective industries as well as the supply and infrastructure systems. This leads to rising and increasingly spatially concentrated demand for clean energy, which tends to exacerbate existing regional deficits. Thereby, some industrial areas like the industrial triangle between Belgium, the Netherlands and North Rhine-Westphalia will need new, high-performance import structures for electricity and hydrogen, while others might be able to meet the additional demand largely by renewable energy from their vicinity. "That is why the decarbonisation strategies of the various industrial clusters in the EU should be coordinated at regional, national and European level in order to advance their implementation and to be able to adapt the necessary infrastructure in a forward-looking and timely manner. And this should involve local industrial actors," says Prof. Dr. Stefan Lechtenböhmer, Director of the Future Energy and Industry Systems Division at the Wuppertal Institute and co-author of the Policy Brief.

Nevertheless, the green transformation of heavy industry in Europe will lead to substantial additional demands in 2050, i.e. at least 419 terawatt hours per year of renewable electricity, 114 terawatt hours per year of green hydrogen as well as carbon capture and storage (CCS) for unavoidable process emissions. "This requires in parallel an ambitious realisation of both the energy saving potentials and the renewable generation potentials in Europe – including offshore wind – as well as an expansion of the electricity infrastructure in addition to current expansion plans, in order to particularly supply core industrial regions," comments Frank Merten, Co-Head of the Systems and Infrastructures Research Unit at the Wuppertal Institute and also co-author of the Policy Brief. The researchers predict that this will only be possible if policymakers put industrial decarbonisation and energy transition jointly in the core of the European Green Deal as well as in respective policies such as the TEN-E regulation for networks, the industrial strategy and the resource efficiency strategy.

During the actual study, which was conducted in 2019 by the Wuppertal Institute and financed by EIT Climate-KIC, analyses were carried out for three selected industrial hot-spot regions in southern France, southern Poland and north-western Europe. Interactive workshops were conducted on site with regional industrial experts in order to explore and evaluate possible infrastructure solutions. In addition to the new Policy Brief, the following links provide access to the workshop reports with further information and results on the three selected industrial focal regions. Todays release was accompanied by a webinar discussing how the European Union (EU) and Member States need to step up their infrastructure planning efforts in order to meet the ambitions of the EU Industrial Strategy and the EU Green Deal.

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