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25th Oct 2021

Commission: Pioneering Nordics' energy mix 'example' to EU

  • Some 63 percent of electricity generated across the Nordic region comes from renewables, compared with the EU at just under one-third (Photo: www.CGPGrey.com)

The Nordic countries - Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden - have some of the most ambitious energy and climate policies in Europe, making this region a role model in the transition towards climate neutrality.

"Nordic solutions are the right way to go. I can only encourage you to continue what you are doing and to lead by example," EU commissioner for energy, Kadri Simson, told members of the Nordic Council in an online event on Tuesday (2 March).

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The 27 EU member states have committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, but Nordic countries lead the way.

Norway aims to achieve climate neutrality in 2030, while Finland is planning to reach net-zero emissions in 2035, Iceland in 2040 and Sweden in 2045. Denmark, for its part, wants to be climate neutral by 2050, but with a reduction target of 70 percent in 2030.

MEP Morten Petersen, the vice-chair of the European Parliament's committee on industry, research and energy (ITRE), said that "2021 and 2022 we will be the years to lay out the path for a decarbonised Europe," pointing out that the long-lasting Nordic regional cooperation will be key to show how this can be done.

For some 25 years, the Nordic region has successfully developed a common electricity market, where hydro, nuclear and wind power are the main generation sources.

"Asked me what success looks like in market integration, and I will point you to the Nordic electricity market," said commissioner Simson.

Electricity generated across the Nordic region is already almost decarbonised (87 percent is considered "carbon-free") - with 63 percent of it coming from renewable sources.

"Renewable energy improves human well-being, and overall welfare, well beyond GDP," said Swedish MP Cecilie Tenfjord-Toftby, who believe that the Nordic region can become an electricity exporter, "serving as a backup for increasing share of renewable energy in other European countries".

Currently, nearly one-third of all electricity consumed in the EU comes from renewable sources.

But it is estimated that renewables will produce close to 60 percent of power by 2030 and more than 80 percent by 2050 to achieve the bloc's climate targets - with the North Sea holding considerable potential for offshore wind farms and other emerging technologies, such as energy islands or wave and tidal energy technologies.

Transport emissions problem

Meanwhile, the decarbonisation of the transport sector represents one of the biggest challenges for the Nordic region.

Despite the increased use of biofuels and electrification of personal vehicles, emissions from the transport sector have been rising in the Nordics - where the sector still accounts for about 37 percent of national greenhouse gas emissions.

The increased use of biofuels, biogas, hydrogen, and the electrification of the sector, are top priorities in national adopted or planned strategies - especially for the heavy road transports, the maritime and the aviation sector.

Electric vehicles accounted for 16 percent of new passenger car sales across the Nordics in 2019, with Norway the frontrunner at 56 percent.

Norway has the highest number of electric cars per capita worldwide, and it wants to electrify all domestic air travel by 2040.

MEP Henna Virkkunen from the ITRE committee drew attention to the importance of having so-called "technological neutrality," calling on Nordic voices to push for a market-based approach in Brussels legislative proposals.

"We need multiple solutions because it will take time before we have electric cars, and we need to cut emissions very fast," said Virkkunen.

"We need to work on three parts: sustainable fuels, how to make vehicles more efficient, and the mobility system, in which digitalisation plays a very important part," she added.

Meanwhile, industry players called on the Nordic Council to agree on what can be done jointly - and what can not - in order to ramp up investment in energy and climate solutions in the region.

EU unveils €800bn offshore renewables plan

The European Commission aims to increase the bloc's wind energy production at sea massively, reaching at least 300 GW by 2050 - a 25-fold increase from the bloc's current offshore wind capacity of 12 GW

Why is Netherlands so far behind on renewables?

Despite its historic connotation with windmills and dams, the Netherlands is in fact far behind most EU countries in the production of energy from renewable sources - alongside stragglers such as Malta, Luxembourg and Belgium.

Renewables roll-out needs faster pace to reach EU goal

In 2017, 17.5 percent of the EU's energy consumption came from renewable sources, while the target is 20 percent by 2020. Brexit may actually help achieve that target - but only through a statistical sleight-of-hand.

Analysis

Why is EU off track for 2020 energy efficiency target?

Most EU member states are likely to miss the 2020 target on energy efficiency, since they were not legally-binding targets. "Transformative" measures are needed to reduce energy consumption while boosting efficiency, experts say.

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