Achieving the goals of the Paris agreement will require a deep decarbonisation of the entire European economy. This is particularly challenging for energy using sectors which are currently greatly dependent on fossil fuels, such as transport, heating and cooling, but also many industry processes. Given the strong commitment by the European electricity sector to become carbon-neutral well before 2050, the electrification of these sectors provides a powerful solution on their path towards decarbonisation.
In 2016, 59% of all electricity generated across the European Union came from carbon-free sources. Rapidly falling costs for renewable energy, heat pumps, batteries and smart grids, will continue to increase this share. Each local fossil heating appliance and vehicle exhaust pipe removed from our streets increases air quality, especially in cities and urban areas.
But electrification does more than just remove emissions. It reduces the import dependency of fossil fuels by replacing these energy carriers with locally produced electricity. It also increases energy efficiency by incentivising the roll-out of more efficient technologies. A heat pump has an efficiency level of >300%, while an electric vehicle is 3-4 times more energy efficient than a car with an internal combustion engine. Using the smart demand created by electric vehicles and heating, we can utilise more of the renewable energy being produced, creating real system efficiencies by linking these sectors together, while keeping costs affordable for citizens.
As the energy needs of modern society evolve and the focus shifts from access to sustainability, security and affordability, electricity is ready to reveal its true potential. Firmly moving toward carbon-neutrality and sustainability, electricity is set to be the energy carrier of the future. But getting there will require recognition and leadership from European policymakers, significant investment and innovation from industry, as well as buy-in from its citizens.